Element of Offense
State must prove each element of offense:
In order for the State to prove a crime occurred, the State must prove each and every element of offense beyond a reasonable doubt. In other words, if the State proves four out of five necessary elements of an offense, but does not prove that last element of offense, then the State has not proven their case, and the jury should come back not guilty.
What is it?
An element of offense is a specific thing that must be proven. Each crime is traditionally comprised of one or more elements that make up the criminal act. For example, in order to prove theft, the State must prove that (a) the person took something; (b) of value; (c) that didn’t belong to them; (d) with the intent to temporarily or permanently deprive another of said possession.
For example, a person walks into the store, grabs a watermelon, picks it up and puts it in his shopping cart and then goes to register and pays for it. This satisfies every prong except for the “temporarily or permanently” deprive another of said possession. That is because the watermelon is for sale, and the person intended to pay for the item when they took it. Therefore, one element of offense was missing and the State should be able to prevail in a theft charge levied against this person.
Russell v. State, 874 So.2d 1256 (Fla. 4th DCA 2004) is a good example of a case that shows how the state failed to prove an element of offense. In Russell, a robbery occurred. During the robbery the Defendant dragged an employee from outside to the inside part of the store next to the safe. The State charged him with kidnapping, among other offenses. The 4th District Court of Appeals said that the State failed to prove the “movement and/or confinement” element of offense of kidnapping.
Discussing what the movement/confinement element meant,they stated, “For a kidnapping conviction to stand, the resulting movement or confinement: (1) must not be slight; (2) must not be the kind inherent in the nature of the other offense; (3) must have significance independent of the other offense.” Applying this test to determine whether the movement/confinement element of offense had been satisfied, the 4th District Court stated that the State failed to prove that element of offense. To Support their decision they noted, “the confinement was the sort of confinement likely to naturally accompany the underlying crime.”