Can I Still Be Convicted Of Aggravated Battery Even Though I Didn’t Know The Exact Harm Would Result To The Victim?
Sometimes the black letter law passed by the legislature is unclear. The legislature can’t anticipate every possible fact scenario when they pass a law, so it lay to the courts to interpret the law and give guidance to what it means. This interpretation is called case law. When the court decides a certain meeting to the law it essentially answers a legal question. Lawyers and other courts then can rely on that ruling when they have a similar issue in their case. The following case answers the question above.
State v. Hobbs, 2015, 340 P.3d 1179, 301 Kan. 203.
This case addresses the following issue:
Can I still be convicted of aggravated battery even though I didn’t know the exact harm would result to the victim?
This case is an appeal from a district court conviction for aggravated battery. The State is required to prove for aggravated battery than a defendant acted while knowing that some type of great bodily harm or disfigurement of another person was reasonably certain to result. In this case, there was sufficient evidence to convict the defendant of aggravated battery because he knowingly caused great bodily harm to another person or disfigurement of another person when he punched the victim. Id. at 203.
Defendant Brenton Lee Hobbs was involved in a fight outside a bar. The fight ended when Hobbs punched Scott Nienke, and Nienke fell to the ground. After Nienke was hit, he fell backwards and hit his head on the bumper of a car and he was hit with enough force that he actually slid under the car. Id. at 204.
Hobbs was charged with aggravated battery under K.S.A. 2011 Supp. 21–5413(b)(1)(A), which requires that he “knowingly cause great bodily harm to another person or disfigurement of another person.” Id. at 205.
The jury found Hobbs guilty of aggravated battery and was sentenced to a prison term of 43 months. Id.
On appeal to the Court of Appeals, Hobbs argued that there was insufficient evidence to find him guilty of aggravated battery because, in his view, K.S.A. 2011 Supp. 21–5413(b)(1)(A) required that he “knowingly caused the great bodily harm that was suffered.” The panel rejected his argument, relying on the characterization of aggravated battery as a general intent crime. As such, the panel ruled, “only the underlying act that caused great bodily harm or disfigurement must be intentional,” and there was “sufficient evidence upon which a jury could find beyond a reasonable doubt that Hobbs intentionally hit Nienke with such force as to cause him great bodily harm.” Id. at 206.
K.S.A. 2011 Supp. 21–5413(b)(1)(A) prohibits causing great bodily harm to another person or disfigurement of another person. It matters not how this is achieved. K.S.A. 2011 Supp. 21–5202(i) addresses the application of knowingly to both the nature of a person’s conduct and the result of a person’s conduct: With respect to the nature of such person’s conduct a person acts knowingly when such person is aware of the nature of such person’s conduct or that the circumstances exist, and with respect to a result of such person’s conduct a person acts knowingly when such person is aware of the nature of such person’s conduct or that the circumstances exist, and with respect to a result of such person’s conduct a person acts knowingly when such person is aware that such person’s conduct is reasonably certain to cause the result. Id. at 210.
“Hobbs’ argument that the evidence against him was not sufficient is limited to the assertion that “the State presented no evidence that Mr. Hobbs intended the harm Mr. Nienke suffered.” As fully discussed above, the State was not required to prove that Hobbs intended the precise harm that Nienke suffered. It need only prove that Hobbs punched Nienke while knowing that some type of great bodily harm or disfigurement of Nienke was reasonably certain to result from the punch.” Id. at 212.
Witnesses testified that Nienke did not initiate contact with Hobbs and that Nienke was simply trying to persuade Hobbs to leave the bar. Id. Witnesses also testified that Nienke “immediately went stiff” after the punch, that is, before hitting his head on the bumper of a car. Id. From this evidence, it would be reasonable for a jury to infer that Hobbs acted while knowing that some type of great bodily harm or disfigurement was reasonably certain to result from the punch, even if he did not anticipate Nienke’s precise injury. The evidence against Hobbs was sufficient to uphold his conviction of aggravated battery. Id. at 213.
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