Tallahassee, Florida - May 27, 2011 -
Kidnapping likely isn’t kidnapping if the criminal never knew they’d taken a child, the Florida Supreme Court said Thursday in a 4-3 decision. The case involved a 2006 incident in Hialeah in which Rogelio Delgado stole a truck that was left running in a parking lot. In the back of the truck was a two-year-old, though he says he had no idea the kid was there. Delgado drove a short distance then abandoned the truck with the child unharmed inside, though he stole the radio and other contents of the cab. At trial, the state didn’t provide any evidence that Delgado ever knew the child was there. But he was convicted of burglary, grand theft, auto theft, and kidnapping. The kidnapping conviction resulted in a mandatory life sentence. But the Supreme Court said in its narrow decision that the law is pretty clear – kidnapping requires taking someone with the “intent to … commit or facilitate commission of” another crime. The Third District Court of Appeal had ruled that Delgado must have become aware of the child and abandoned her – rather than turning her in – so he get away with auto theft and theft of the truck’s contents. But writing for the Supreme Court majority, Justice Barbara Pariente wrote that the Third DCA’s rationale “does not explain how Delgado’s decision to leave the scene established the statutory elements of kidnapping with the intent to facilitate auto theft. The crux of the district court’s decision relies on an ‘infer[ence] from the evidence that Delgado became aware that the child was confined in the truck in the course of removing the radio, taking the owner’s tools, and ransacking the interior of the vehicle in an obvious search for other valuables.’” But the Supreme Court reasoned that the defendant must know about the victim before or during the commission of the underlying felony – not after the fact. The court ordered Delgado’s kidnapping conviction vacated. Concurring with Pariente were Justices Peggy Quince, James Perry and Jorge Labarga. Dissenting were Justices R. Fred Lewis, Ricky Polston and Chief Justice Charles Canady.