Making Creative Arguments

by | May 12, 2023

This firm recently represented a criminal defendant in a case involving a shot fired at a pickup truck. According to the State’s evidence, the defendant was driving his car when he saw another man with whom he had some personal animosity. The defendant then allegedly stuck his arm out the window and fired a handgun at the rear of the truck. Investigators found a bullet hole in the truckbed toolbox and a bullet inside the toolbox. The defendant was charged with discharging a weapon into an occupied vehicle.

On that evidence, it was impossible on appeal to argue that the charge should have been dismissed — at least, directly. The State had presented sufficient evidence that the defendant had fired the gun at the truck, and of course they had evidence as to where the bullet had ended up. This firm then developed a creative argument on appeal — what if, when the bullet struck the toolbox, it was stopped from going INTO the vehicle? The bullet hole was at the top of the toolbox, and from the angle of fire it was clear that it never traveled through the open truck bed. Although it might seem odd to think, if the bullet never entered the vehicle, then the defendant would not be guilty of discharging a weapon INTO a vehicle. As most, he would be guilty of an attempted discharge, which would carry a significantly lighter sentence.

Unfortunately the Court of Appeals reasoned that, because the tool box was secured to the pickup truck with bungy cords, the tool box was effectively part of the truck. Therefore, a bullet fired into the toolbox was a bullet fired into the truck. We were disappointed with this result, but we believe this case nonetheless demonstrates the creative thinking necessary on appeal. Sometimes what might seem like a dead end is just an opportunity to think outside the box. Or in this case, outside the toolbox.

The Court’s decision can be read HERE.

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