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Rodriguez v. State

Supreme Court of Nevada

December 28, 2017

DANIEL JAMES RODRIGUEZ, Appellant,
v.
THE STATE OF NEVADA, Respondent.

         Appeal from a judgment of conviction, pursuant to a jury verdict, of battery with the use of a deadly weapon. Second Judicial District Court, Washoe County; Lynne K. Simons, Judge.

          Martin H. Wiener, Reno, for Appellant.

          Adam Paul Laxalt, Attorney General, Carson City; Christopher J. Hicks, District Attorney, and Stephan Hollandsworth, Deputy District Attorney, Washoe County, for Respondent.

          BEFORE HARDESTY, PARRAGUIRRE and STIGLICH, JJ.

          OPINION

          STIGLICH, J.

         At issue in this appeal is the definition of "deadly weapon" within the context of battery. Daniel Rodriguez contends the jury instruction that led to his conviction for battery with the use of a deadly weapon was erroneous because the object he used to stab his victim-a screwdriver-is not designed to be inherently dangerous. We disagree because, within the context of battery, "deadly weapon" includes an instrument which, under the circumstances in which it is used, is readily capable of causing substantial bodily harm or death. The jury instructions accurately stated that definition. Therefore, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Appellant Daniel Rodriguez used a screwdriver to stab a 66-year-old man in the neck. The screwdriver was four to six inches long. It broke through the victim's skin, causing bleeding and one night of hospitalization. The State charged Rodriguez with battery with the use of a deadly weapon, causing substantial bodily harm, against a person at least sixty years of age.

         Prior to trial, Rodriguez repeatedly contested the "deadly weapon" allegation, arguing that a screwdriver could not meet the narrow definition of "deadly weapon" he claimed applies to NRS 200.481(2)(e), which governs the crime of battery with the use of a deadly weapon. The district court rejected Rodriguez's motions to dismiss the deadly weapon allegation.

         When it came time to settle jury instructions, Rodriguez and the State submitted competing "deadly weapon" definitions. Rodriguez submitted an "inherently dangerous" definition:

A deadly weapon is any instrument which, if used in the ordinary manner contemplated by its design or construction, will, or is likely to cause a life-threatening injury or death.

         The State offered a "functional" definition:

A "deadly weapon" is defined as any weapon, device, instrument, material or substance which, under the circumstances in which it is used, attempted to be used or threatened to be used, is readily capable of ...

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