Taking the definition of deadly weapon to new extremes

It's no surprise that legal terms and phrases seldom mean what you would expect them to mean. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the definition of deadly weapon.The Texas Penal Code defines deadly weapon as anything that in it's manner of use or intended use is capable of causing death  or serious bodily injury. You don't have to to actually cause injury. Instead, the focus is on the intent, and the manner in which something is used. That all makes sense, until you see how the courts have applied it.

Over the years, the definition of deadly weapon has been expanded. Courts now hold that anything can be a deadly weapon. That was apparent in the recent case of poor Prisscilla Mechell. She was charged with aggravated kidnapping, injury to a child, and abandoning a child. The facts were that she took a baby from a friends house, and ended up leaving the child in a dumpster where she was later found. Although the child was severely dehydrated, there were no serious or permanent issues. The issue in the case was whether the dumpster was a deadly weapon.

The court had little trouble deciding that it was. The court found that the defendant used the dumpster to hide the baby, and that in doing so there was the possibility that death or serious bodily injury could result. While I'm not surprised,that seems to me to be a totally unwarranted expansion of the definition.

When you think of deadly weapon, you envision something that is actually used to inflict injury. The dumpster in this case was not used to inflict injury. It was the act of abandoning the child that  caused the injury, and the dumpster was simply the place where he was left. Under the court's logic, any place the child had been left could be a deadly weapon. I suppose that if a parent runs off and leaves their children for an extended period of time, their house then becomes a deadly weapon.

The reason why a deadly weapon finding is important is because it increases the time a person must serve before they're eligible for parole. In some cases it also increases the grade of the offense, so it is an important finding. If you want to punish some offenses more severely that's fine. But engaging in mental gymnastics and legal fiction is not the way to go. It's time to return some common sense to the legal system, and this would be a good place to start.

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