Alligator Drive-Thru Assault: “It Was a Prank”

A 24-year-old South Florida man stands accused of assault with a deadly weapon for throwing a live alligator into a fast-food restaurant drive-thru window. His father recently spoke out, saying his son is a “nature lover” with a “good heart,” and the ordeal was simply, “a prank.”alligator2

Unfortunately, intent in these matters is of little consequence in the eyes of the criminal justice system. He allegedly willfully tossed the 3.5-foot creature at the unsuspecting fast food workers would, if proven, render his reported lack of harmful intention meaningless.

In fact, it has been our experience that most people accused of criminal conduct had failed to fully grasp the seriousness of their actions under the law. Sometimes this, along with a lack of prior criminal record and other factors, can be asserted as mitigating circumstances to justify a lesser penalty. However, it cannot on its own be grounds to drop the charges entirely. 

The charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon is codified in F.S. 784.021. It is when someone commits an assault either:

  • With a deadly weapon without the intention to kill;
  • Or with the intention to commit a felony.

It is prescribed as a third-degree felony, which means it is punishable by up to five years in prison.

There may be little opportunity in this case to assert a lack of evidence or proof that the defendant is to blame. That’s because shortly after his release from jail on bond, he granted an interview to a local television station in which he stated, “I’m sorry for what I did.” He characterized it as “stupid,” and he’s prepared to face the consequences.

Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers know his admission, particularly because it is on video, will be powerful evidence of his guilt in court.

According to police allegations, the incident occurred in October at a Wendy’s in Loxahatchee. It was just after 1:30 a.m. when defendant, identified as Joshua James, placed an order. The fast food worker turned to hand him his drink, and James allegedly through the alligator inside the window.

Authorities were called to the store and detained the animal. It was eventually released into a local canal.

Officials reportedly identified James by matching the truck he was driving, as captured on the restaurant’s surveillance video, with video taken from a local gas station shortly thereafter. He was identified based on the credit card he used at the gas station.

Officers tracked him down in December. At that time, he reportedly told police he discovered the alligator by the roadside, picked it up and tossed it at the fast food workers.

He later said he, “wasn’t thinking.”

The alligator was not injured during the incident, and neither were any employees.

In addition to the aggravated assault charge, he is also charged with unlawful sale, possession or transporting of an alligator and petite theft. The alligator charge is codified under F.S. 379.401, and is deemed a Level Three violation, which renders it a first-degree misdemeanor. It carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail. Fines and penalties could be increased if a defendant has a prior criminal record of similar conduct.

There are many situations in which youthful indiscretion can result in serious consequences, particularly if the individual is over the legal age of majority, which is 18 in Florida. Criminal defense lawyers do have a number of effective strategies that may result in a reduction of charges or penalties, but it’s imperative to speak to one first – before giving a statement to police or the media.

Call Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Additional Resources:

It was a prank, says dad of man accused of throwing live gator through Wendy’s drive-thru, Feb. 9, 2016, By Kate Jacobson, Sun-Sentinel

More Blog Entries:

Bail Set for “Peeping Tom” Suspect in Pembroke Pines, Feb. 9, 2016, Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney Blog