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Supreme Court of Florida
____________
No. SC01-1114
____________
RONALD REYNOLDS,
Petitioner,
vs.
STATE OF FLORIDA,
Respondent.
[December 19, 2002]
ANSTEAD, C.J.
We have for review Reynolds v. State, 784 So. 2d 509 (Fla. 1st DCA 2001),
based on express and direct conflict with State v. Simbach, 742 So. 2d 365 (Fla.
2d DCA 1999). We have jurisdiction. See art. V, 3(b)(3), Fla. Const. We
conclude that section 828.12(2), Florida Statutes (1997), prohibiting cruelty to
animals, constitutes a general intent crime, and we approve the First District Court
of Appeal's decision in Reynolds rejecting the petitioner's due process attack on

the statute and affirming his conviction.
BACKGROUND
Petitioner, Ronald Reynolds, was convicted of felony animal cruelty
pursuant to section 828.12(2), Florida Statutes (1997), which provides:
A person who intentionally commits an act to any animal which results
in the cruel death, or excessive or repeated infliction of unnecessary
pain or suffering, or causes the same to be done, is guilty of a felony
of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or by a fine
of not more than $10,000, or both.
On appeal from his conviction to the First District Court of Appeal, petitioner
asserted that section 828.12(2) should be construed to require a specific intent, or,
if not, should be found facially unconstitutional because it did not include a specific
intent element. Reynolds v. State, 784 So. 2d 509, 510 (Fla. 1st DCA 2001).
The district court rejected petitioner's assertions, and concluded first that the
plain language of section 828.12(2) did not require specific intent, or in other
words, the statute did not require the defendant to "commit an act intending to
cause a cruel death or excessive or repeated unnecessary pain or suffering." Id.
Judge Webster, writing for the court, explained:
As appellant correctly notes, the clear language of the statute
requires only that one "intentionally commit[ ] an act to any animal
which results in the cruel death, or excessive or repeated infliction of
unnecessary pain or suffering" to be guilty of the offense. It does not
require that one commit an act intending to cause a cruel death or
-2-

excessive or repeated unnecessary pain or suffering. Historically, the
former has been called a "general intent" crime, and the latter has been
called a "specific intent" crime.
Id. at 511.
Further, in determining that specific intent was not constitutionally required,
Judge Webster explained:
The fact that section 828.12(2), Florida Statutes (1997), requires
only general, rather than specific, intent does not, as appellant argues,
necessitate the conclusion that the statute is unconstitutional. (We
note that appellant fails to identify any particular provisions of either
the state or the federal constitution that are supposedly violated by this
statute.) Our supreme court has held:
It is within the power of the legislature to declare
conduct criminal without requiring specific criminal intent
to achieve a certain result; that is, the legislature may
punish conduct without regard to the mental attitude of
the offender, so that the general intent of the accused to
do the act is deemed to give rise to a presumption of
intent to achieve the criminal result. . . .
The question of whether conviction of a crime
should require proof of a specific, as opposed to a
general, criminal intent is a matter for the legislature to
determine in defining the crime. The elements of a crime
are derived from the statutory definition.
State v. Gray, 435 So. 2d 816, 819-20 (Fla. 1983). The legislature has,
by plain language, declared that one is guilty of the crime proscribed
by section 828.12(2) regardless of whether he or she acted with the
specific intent to inflict upon an animal a cruel death or excessive or
repeated unnecessary pain or suffering.
Id. The district court affirmed the conviction and held that (1) section 828.12(2)
-3-

only required general intent, and (2) the lack of a specific intent element in section
828.12(2) did not render the statute facially unconstitutional. Id. at 510.
Simbach
In contrast to the First District's decision, the Second District in State v.
Simbach, 742 So. 2d 365 (Fla. 2d DCA 1999), held that section 812.12(2) did
require proof of a specific intent of cruelty. In Simbach, the trial court granted
defendant's motion to dismiss felony animal cruelty charges under section 828.12
"because [the defendant] did not intend for the animal to endure a cruel death or
any unnecessary pain or suffering." Simbach, 742 So. 2d at 366. In a brief
analysis, the Second District concluded, "We agree with the trial court's
interpretation of section 828.12 as requiring a specific intent to cause a cruel death
or excessive or repeated infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering." Id.
ANALYSIS
The conflict between the Simbach and Reynolds decisions is whether section
828.12(2) requires that an alleged offender have a specific intent to bring about a
cruel death or unnecessary pain and suffering of an animal.1 We agree with Judge
Webster's conclusion in Reynolds that the Legislature, by the plain language of the
1. See also Craig I. Scheiner, Crimes Against Nonhuman Animals and
Florida's Courts 1889-2001, Fla. B. J., Nov. 2001, at 52, 53 (explaining the conflict
between Reynolds and Simbach).
-4-

statute, intended for section 828.12(2) to operate as a general intent crime.
Relying on State v. Huggins, 802 So. 2d 276 (Fla. 2001), petitioner argues
that the word "intentionally" as used in section 828.12(2) should modify the rest of
the phrase as well, such that a person would not be criminally liable unless the
person actually intended a "cruel death, or excessive or repeated infliction of
unnecessary pain or suffering." Petitioner's reliance on Huggins, however, is
misplaced, because the statutory phrase at issue in Huggins is entirely
distinguishable. In Huggins, we interpreted the language in the Prison Releasee
Reoffender Act, which defined a prison releasee reoffender as a defendant who
"commits, or attempts to commit" a "burglary of an occupied structure or
dwelling." See id. at 277-78 (interpreting language of section 775.082 (8)(a)(1)(q),
Fla. Stat. (1997)). We determined that the term "occupied" in the phrase "occupied
structure or dwelling" modified both the term "structure" and "dwelling." We
likened the phrase "occupied structure or dwelling" to other short phrases where an
adjective modifies a subsequent list of nouns:
Phrases constructed like the phrase at issue, however, are commonly
construed to mean that the adjective modifies subsequent nouns, for
example, "qualified man or woman" and "governmental fine or
penalty" mean "qualified man or qualified woman" and "governmental
fine or governmental penalty, respectively."
Id. at 278. However, the phrase in section 828.12(2) is unlike the phrase in Huggins
-5-

because it does not involve an adjective immediately followed by a list of nouns.2
Hence, we find Huggins inapposite.
INTENT
The Legislature generally has broad authority to determine any requirement
for intent in the definition of a crime. The Legislature is vested with the authority to
define the elements of a crime, and therefore "determining whether scienter is an
essential element of a statutory crime is a question of legislative intent." Chicone v.
State, 684 So. 2d 736, 741 (Fla. 1996). Further, it is well settled that legislative
intent is the polestar that guides a court's statutory construction analysis. See State
v. Rife, 789 So. 2d 288, 292 (Fla. 2001); McLaughlin v. State, 721 So. 2d 1170,
1172 (Fla. 1998). In determining the Legislature's intent, we look first at the
statute's plain language. See, e.g., Hawkins v. Ford Motor Co., 748 So. 2d 993,
997 (Fla. 1999); Moonlit Waters Apartments, Inc. v. Cauley, 666 So. 2d 898, 900
(Fla. 1996).
Section 828.12(2) plainly states: "A person who intentionally commits an act
2. Petitioner suggests that we read the statute as "[a] person who
intentionally commits an act to any animal which [intentionally] results in the cruel
death, or excessive or repeated infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering."
However, not only would this result in the insertion of a word that is not present, it
would also change the meaning of the statute. When construing statutes, courts
"are not at liberty to add words to statutes that were not placed there by the
Legislature." See Hayes v. State, 750 So. 2d 1, 4 (Fla. 1999).
-6-

to any animal which results in the cruel death, or excessive or repeated infliction of
unnecessary pain or suffering, or causes the same to be done, is guilty of a felony
of the third degree . . . ." 828.12(2) (emphasis added). The meaning of the
language that the Legislature selected to describe any required intent in this statute is
both plain and unambiguous. Moreover, from a common sense reading of the
statute, it is clear that the First District's interpretation is correct. The language of
the statute expressly requires only that the defendant "intentionally commit an act,"
with the word "intentionally" modifying the phrase "commit an act." Hence, the
Legislature has expressed no intent to create an additional element requiring proof
that an alleged offender acted with the mental intent to inflict a cruel death or
unnecessary suffering.
Furthermore, if the Legislature wanted the statute to include the specific
intent to cause a cruel death or suffering, they could have specifically said so.
Notably, section 828.12(2) previously provided:
A person who tortures any animal with intent to inflict intense pain,
serious physical injury, or death upon the animal is guilty of a felony of
the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or by a fine of
not more than $10,000, or both.
828.12(2), Fla. Stat. (1993) (emphasis added). This version of the statute did
provide for specific intent to inflict pain, injury, or death. Thus, the Legislature
-7-

clearly knew how to draft the statute so that the act would not be criminal unless the
defendant had acted with the specific intent to inflict intense pain, serious physical
injury, or death upon an animal. In 1994, however, the Legislature amended the
statute to read in its present form. See ch. 94-339, 5, at 2436, Laws of Fla.3 As
amended, the statute no longer requires that a person act with the specific intent to
inflict intense pain or death. Rather, the statute simply requires that the person
"intentionally commit[] an act to any animal which results in the cruel death, or
3. Section 828.12 was amended as follows:
(1) A person who unnecessarily overloads, overdrives,
torments, deprives of necessary sustenance or shelter, or
unnecessarily or cruelly beats, mutilates, or kills any animal, or causes
the same to be done, or carries in or upon any vehicle, or otherwise,
any animal in a cruel or inhumane manner, is guilty of a misdemeanor
of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or by a fine of
not more than $5,000, or both.
(2) A person who intentionally commits an act to any animal
which results in the cruel death, or excessive or repeated infliction of
unnecessary pain or suffering, or causes the same to be done, A
person who tortures any animal with intent to inflict intense pain,
serious physical injury, or death upon the animal is guilty of a felony of
the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or by a fine of
not more than $10,000, or both.
(3) A veterinarian licensed to practice in the state shall be held
harmless from either criminal or civil liability for any decisions made or
services rendered under the provisions of this section. Such a
veterinarian is, therefore, under this subsection, immune from a lawsuit
for his part in an investigation of cruelty to animals.
Ch. 94-339, 5, at 2436, Laws of Fla.
-8-

excessive or repeated infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering, or causes the
same to be done." Id. (emphasis added). See also 828.12(2), Fla. Stat. (1997).
Reynolds further contends that we should imply a requirement of specific
intent under the reasoning of our opinion in Chicone v. State, 684 So. 2d 736, 737-
38 (Fla. 1996), wherein we examined section 893.13(1)(f), Florida Statutes (1991)
(possession of controlled substance), and section 893.147(1), Florida Statutes
(1995) (possession of drug paraphernalia). However, in Chicone, both statutes
were silent as to whether a scienter element was required, i.e., that knowledge of the
presence of illicit drugs or paraphernalia was a necessary element of either crime.
Under those circumstances, and based on the nature of the offenses, we held that
the Legislature intended guilty knowledge associated with the possession to be an
element of both crimes and that the State must prove that a person in possession of
the illicit items knew that they were in his or her possession. See 684 So. 2d at 744.
In particular, we noted:
The United States Supreme Court has stated that offenses that require
no mens rea generally are disfavored, and has suggested that some
indication of legislative intent, express or implied, is required to
dispense with mens rea as an element of a crime. There is no such
indication of legislative intent to dispense with mens rea here. Our
holding depends substantially on our view that if the legislature had
intended to make criminals out of people who were wholly ignorant of
-9-

the offending characteristics of items in their possession, and subject
them to lengthy prison terms, it would have spoken more clearly to
that effect. Interpreting the statutes as dispensing with scienter would
"criminalize a broad range of apparently innocent conduct. . . ."
. . . We believe it was the intent of the legislature to prohibit the
knowing possession of illicit items and to prevent persons from doing
so by attaching a substantial criminal penalty to such conduct. . . . As
all agree, including the State, the legislature would not ordinarily
criminalize the innocent possession of illegal drugs.
Id. at 743-44 (footnote and citations omitted). Thus, our holding in Chicone was
based on our view that the Legislature would not "make criminals out of people
who were wholly ignorant of the offending characteristics of items in their
possession, and subject them to lengthy prison terms" without explicitly stating this
intent. Id. at 743.
However, as noted above, Chicone involved statutes that were silent as to the
requisite intent. In the instant case, there is an intent expressly provided for in the
statute. A person must "intentionally commit[] an act" that results in an animal's
cruel death or causes an animal an excessive amount of suffering. 828.12(2), Fla.
Stat. (1997). Thus, unlike the situation in Chicone, here the Legislature was not
silent on the subject of intent in drafting section 828.12(2).
Finally, petitioner argues that even if section 828.12(2) is "written in language
which sounds like it requires only general intent," we must, nonetheless, read
-10-

specific intent into the statute for it to be constitutional.4 Petitioner's argument is
general in nature, but apparently predicated on due process concerns of notice.
We have previously stated that "[i]t is within the authority of the legislature to
dispense with specific criminal intent when defining crimes." State v. Bussey, 463
4. Petitioner argues that the law requires a specific intent element because
"Florida has no general prohibition against killing an animal" and he describes a
host of situations where people who have legally killed an animal would allegedly be
held criminally liable, such as hunters, fishers, pest control workers, slaughterhouse
workers, and animal shelter employees. This argument is without merit for two
reasons. First, there is a general prohibition against unnecessarily killing an animal
in Florida. Section 828.12(1), Florida Statutes (1997), provides that a person who
"unnecessarily mutilates, or kills any animal . . . is guilty of a misdemeanor of the
first degree." Therefore, unnecessarily killing an animal in Florida is, at a minimum,
a punishable misdemeanor.
Moreover, we have already held that the type of concerns petitioner raises
are more appropriately addressed to the Legislature. See Wilkerson v. State, 401
So. 2d 1110, 1112 (Fla. 1981) ("Appellant has raised some difficult questions
concerning the applicability of this statute [section 828.12] to hunters, fishermen,
and pest exterminators. We believe that these hypothetical questions are more
properly addressed to the legislature than to the courts.") Furthermore, as one
commentator has noted, anti-cruelty statutes
are intended to protect animals from the kinds of behavior that no
responsible hunter or farmer would defend. . . . Unless society deems
these practices unacceptable, anti-cruelty laws will not prevent animals
from being hunted, raised and killed for food, used in entertainment, or
used in research laboratories. Prosecution of animal cruelty cases is at
the discretion of the prosecutor and is usually reserved for extreme
cases.
Pamela D. Frasch et al., State Animal Anti-Cruelty Statutes: An Overview, 5 Animal
L. 69, 75-76 (1999).
-11-

So. 2d 1141, 1143 (Fla. 1985); see State v. Gray, 435 So. 2d 816, 819-820 (Fla.
1983). Here, the Legislature has acted within that authority and has put potential
offenders on express notice of the intent required to violate section 828.12(2). That
the statute contains a requirement of a general intent to commit an act that is
obviously reasonably related to the harm sought to be avoided, rather than a more
specific intent, is a choice for the Legislature. Therefore, we conclude the lack of a
provision requiring specific intent to inflict pain does not render the statute
unconstitutional.
CONCLUSION
Based on the plain language of the statute, we hold that the First District was
correct in its analysis and conclusion both as to intent requirements of section
828.12(2), Florida Statutes (1997), and the statute's constitutionality. We approve
Reynolds and disapprove Simbach to the extent that it holds that section 828.12(2)
requires specific intent.5
It is so ordered.
SHAW, WELLS, PARIENTE, LEWIS, QUINCE, and CANTERO, JJ., concur.
NOT FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING MOTION, AND
5. Petitioner raises two additional arguments that we decline to address
because they are beyond the scope of the conflict in this case and they were not
reached by the decision below.
-12-

IF FILED, DETERMINED.
Application for Review of the Decision of the District Court of Appeal - Statutory
Validity
First District - Case No. 1D99-1522
(Leon County)
Nancy A. Daniels, Public Defender, and Kathleen Stover, Assistant Public
Defender, Second Judicial Circuit, Tallahassee, Florida,
for Petitioner
Richard E. Doran, Attorney General, James W. Rogers, Tallahassee Bureau Chief,
Criminal Appeals, and Daniel A. David, Assistant Attorney General, Tallahassee,
Florida,
for Respondent
-13-

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