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. Bradford, 2000, 3 P.3d 104, 27 Kan.App.2d 597.
This case addresses the following issue:
Is the defense of self-defense available for a reckless aggravated battery charge?
Defendant Michael Bradford was convicted of reckless aggravated battery. He was sentenced to 24 months’ probation with an underlying prison term of 8 months. This is a direct appeal from the conviction. Id at 105.
According to the victim (Jessie), defendant became intoxicated and was using language she did not approve of. Defendant described Jessie as a big woman who was 70 years of age at the time of the incident in question. When defendant would not refrain from using objectionable language in her home, Jessie ordered him to leave. Defendant and Jessie exchanged angry words, and defendant admits he twice called Jessie a bitch. He admits that he knew Jessie would be very angry if he called her a bitch, but he did so anyway. Id.
Defendant then got into his car and was preparing to leave. Jessie was outside and had a hammer and some small garden tools in her hand. As defendant sat in his car, he called Jessie a bitch once again. Jessie started toward the car with the hammer in her hand and opened up the passenger side door. Id. Defendant stated that in an attempt to leave, he first backed up and then drove forward. Id. at 106. In the process, he knocked Jessie down and hit her with his automobile. Jessie was rendered unconscious and sustained visible wounds to her shoulder, back, and leg. Id. Defendant, after realizing what happened, thought he had “killed her” and was quite anxious about her condition. Id. Someone called 911, the police and an ambulance arrived, Jessie was taken to the hospital, and defendant was arrested.
Defendant was charged with having unlawfully and recklessly caused “great bodily harm or disfigurement to another person, to wit: Jessie Bradford.” This was a charge of reckless aggravated battery, which was a severity level 5-person felony under K.S.A. 21–3414(a)(2)(A). Id.
On appeal, defendant argued that the trial court erred in refusing to give self-defense instruction. Id. at 107. Defendant testified that he never tried to hit or hurt Jessie and that all he wanted to do was leave and get out of the way. When asked if he was afraid of Jessie, he said, “More of the hammer, because she could hit and I’d get over it but a hammer.” Id.
Defendant was convicted of reckless conduct which caused bodily harm to Jessie. The question is whether one can defend against reckless conduct by claiming self-defense. The Court concluded that such a defense is not available in a case where the charge is one of reckless conduct. Id. “In Kansas, one may use force against an aggressor when he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to defend against the imminent use of force by the aggressor. Self-defense is the intentional use of reasonable force to fend off an attacker. The concept of recklessness does not fit within the definition of self-defense.” Id.