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Road Rage Conviction Reversed Because Trial Court Excluded Evidence Concerning Alleged Victim

The increasing incidents of road rage have resulted in numerous arrests and trials. Many road rage cases are prosecuted even though there are no independent witnesses and it is the word of one combatant against the other. Aggravated battery is an unlawful touching which causes great bodily harm, permanent disability or disfigurement or involves the use of a deadly weapon. The crime of aggravated battery is a second degree felony, punishable by a maximum of 15 years in prison.

It is not uncommon for the police to take the word of the first person to complain and arrest the other person. Even though the first person to complain may lie to the police officer and contend that the other party was the aggressor.

The case of Nobles v. State, 978 So. 2d 849 (Fla.1st DCA 2008) involved an arrest for aggravated battery arising out of an incident of road rage. There were no witnesses to the event, except the two participants. The alleged victim contended that the defendant threw the first punch. The defendant, however, contended that it was the alleged victim who started the fight and he was acting in self defense.

The defendant sought to introduce evidence that the alleged victim had recently carried brass knuckles, the victim's urine tested positive for the presence of amphetamines a few hours after the incident, and testimony of a physician that amphetamines can cause a person to be easily agitated and aggressive. The trial court prevented the defendant from introducing this evidence, saying that it was not probative.

The District Court of Appeal reversed stating that when the jury was called upon to make the critical determination of which of these two men was the initial aggressor, the evidence that the trial court excluded was relevant to that important decision. Therefore, the case was reversed and remanded for a new trial.