Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

C.M. v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, Second District

January 5, 2018

C.M., Appellant,
v.
STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellee.

         NOT FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING MOTION AND, IF FILED, DETERMINED

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Polk County; Mark H. Hofstad, Judge.

          Howard L. Dimmig, II, Public Defender, and Matthew D. Bernstein, Assistant Public Defender, Bartow, for Appellant.

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Johnny T. Salgado, Assistant Attorney General, Tampa, for Appellee.

          BLACK, JUDGE.

         C.M. challenges the order withholding adjudication of delinquency but finding C.M. guilty of affray and placing her on probation for one year. C.M. contends that the court erred in denying her motion for judgment of dismissal of the affray charge based on the State's failure to present evidence rebutting her theory of self-defense. We agree and reverse and remand for entry of judgment of dismissal.

         C.M. was charged with disorderly conduct and affray as the result of a physical altercation between C.M. and another juvenile, S.J., on the juveniles' high school campus. At the adjudicatory hearing, the State's only witness was the high school's dean of students. The dean testified that C.M. and S.J. were involved in a "disturbance" outside of the school's cafeteria. The dean watched S.J. walk to a group of students S.J. "normally hangs with, " which included C.M. He saw S.J. and C.M. talking; after he had looked away and continued to talk to another administrator, he heard students yelling and turned around to see C.M. and S.J. "punching each other" and "striking each other." The dean yelled for the students to "stop fighting"; however, C.M. and S.J. only stopped fighting after they were physically separated. Although the dean testified that the fight appeared mutual, he also testified that he did not see who threw the first punch or how the fight started.

         Following the dean's testimony, the State rested and C.M. moved for judgment of dismissal. C.M. argued that the State had not presented a prima facie case of disorderly conduct or affray because the dean had not seen how the fight started: "[I]t could have been self-defense, . . . a full defense of the case." The State responded that the testimony established the altercation was mutual-there was no indication that either student was the aggressor-and that despite being told to disengage, the students continued to fight. The court denied the motion for judgment of dismissal as to both charges.

         The defense called T.J., a student who witnessed the fight. T.J. testified that she, C.M., and another student were walking out of the cafeteria when they were approached by S.J. S.J. began "cussing" at the third student, "just trying to fight, basically." According to T.J., S.J. was aggressive. T.J. testified that after C.M. said "nobody's going to fight, we aren't doing this today, " the third student walked away and then S.J. "started going at" C.M. and punched C.M. "in the face just out of nowhere." T.J. stated that she did not hear the dean command the students to stop fighting.

         C.M. also testified. C.M. saw S.J. walking toward her and could tell S.J. was angry. S.J. asked the third student if they were going to fight, and C.M. said, "No, we can't be doing this." C.M. testified that S.J. punched her in the face and that she defended herself by punching S.J. C.M. also testified that she did not hear the dean tell them to stop fighting.

         Following C.M.'s testimony, the defense renewed its motion for judgment of dismissal. Counsel argued that the undisputed evidence established that C.M. had acted in self-defense and that the State had failed to rebut the defense with any evidence. In support of the argument, counsel pointed to two cases discussing the applicability of self-defense to the charge of disorderly conduct. The State responded that the court should find T.J.'s and C.M.'s testimony less credible than the dean's. The State represented that the dean's testimony was that S.J. was not acting aggressively and therefore T.J.'s and C.M.'s testimony that S.J. approached them in an aggressive manner should not be believed. The court indicated that it would "reserve on that argument" and asked the parties for closing argument.

         In closing argument, counsel reiterated that C.M. was acting in self-defense and that the undisputed evidence established that S.J. threw the first punch. Addressing the unresolved motion for judgment of dismissal, the court stated: "Based on the case law and the facts that are virtually identical to what we have here today as to the charge of disorderly conduct, which is the only thing that has been argued to this point in time, I find the defendant not guilty of disorderly conduct." However, the court found C.M. guilty of affray and placed her on one year of probation.

         C.M. subsequently filed a written renewed motion for judgment of dismissal, arguing that she had moved for judgment of dismissal as to both charges on the basis that the State had failed to rebut her defense of self-defense. C.M. contended that justified use of force is applicable in cases of affray just as it is in cases of disorderly conduct. The renewed motion was denied in an order containing no findings or conclusions.

         We review the trial court's ruling on a motion for judgment of dismissal de novo. G.T.J. v. State, 994 So.2d 1182, 1184 (Fla. 2d DCA 2008) (citing E.A.B. v. State, 851 So.2d 308, 310 (Fla. 2d DCA 2003)). On our review of the record, it appears that the trial court denied the motion for judgment of dismissal not because it found that self-defense is not a defense to the charge of affray but because it did not realize that both affray and disorderly conduct were the subject of the motion. The court ruled: "Based on the case law and the facts that are virtually identical to what we have here today as to the charge of disorderly conduct, which is the only thing that has been argued to this point in time, I find the defendant not guilty of disorderly conduct." (Emphasis added.) C.M.'s written motion for judgment of dismissal established that C.M. also ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.