Court Overturns Battery Conviction on “Hospital” Definition Spat – Spurgeon v. State

In Spurgeon v. State, Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeals explains that state prosecutors must prove each and every element of the crime charged – including those that may seem obvious – in order to secure a conviction in a criminal case.

Spurgeon was charged with battery on an emergency medical care provider for allegedly spitting in the face of a security guard at South Seminole Hospital. He was a patient in the hospital’s emergency room, where Spurgeon was prevented from leaving as a result of a medical hold. Although the nature of the hold was unclear, the court explained that Spurgeon had voluntarily sought treatment at the hospital and was later retrained due to intoxication and aggressive behavior. After the restraints were later removed, Spurgeon attempted to leave the facility. Security staff stopped him and restrained him again, during which Spurgeon spat on security staff member DenDekker.

At the close of trial, Spurgeon moved for acquittal. His lawyer argued that the prosecution did not establish that DenDekker was an “emergency medical care provider” under the applicable law, section 784.07(1)(a), Florida Statutes. The term “includes physicians, employees, agents, or volunteers as defined in chapter 395, who are employed, under contract, or otherwise authorized by a hospital to perform duties directly associated with the care and treatment rendered by the hospital’s emergency department or the security thereof.”

The trial court denied the acquittal motion. The Fifth District reversed the decision on appeal, however, finding that the State did not show that Seminole met the definition of a hospital under chapter 395. The appeals court rejected the lower court’s finding that the statute did not require the hospital to be as defined in chapter 395, but that physicians, employees, agents, etc. be as those terms are defined in chapter 395. “Since ‘hospital’ is the only term defined in chapter 395, the appropriate construction of section 784.07(1)(a) is that the term ’emergency medical care provider’ only covers physicians, employees, agents, or volunteers of a hospital as a hospital is defined in chapter 395,” the court explained.

The court went on to find that the State entered no evidence whatsoever as to whether Seminole met the definition of a hospital under chapter 395. In other words, while the prosecution established that she was an employee or agent of Seminole, it did not establish that Seminole was covered under the battery law. As a result, the court reversed the conviction and remanded the case for further proceedings.

As this case makes perfectly clear, the details are very important in Florida criminal cases. Among other tasks, a criminal defense lawyer’s job is to make sure that the prosecution is required to prove each and every element of a particular crime. At Anidjar & Levine, our South Florida criminal defense lawyers are experienced in handling a wide range of criminal cases throughout the state, including in Ft. Lauderdale, Boca Raton and Pompano Beach. We are dedicated to providing our clients with aggressive, competent and high-quality representation.

Related blog posts:

Florida Battery Charge Requires Proof of Intent – Yarn v. State

Court Throws Out Brother’s Witness Testimony in Florida Robbery Case – Bleich v. State

High Court Says Use of Drug Dogs Outside Home Requires Probable Cause – Florida v. Jardines