WHAT IS THE “SINGLE IMPULSE RULE” AND HOW DOES IT RELATE TO CRIMINAL DAMAGE TO PROPERTY?
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. Waufle, 673 P.2d 109 (Kan. Ct. App. 1983).
This case addresses the following issue:
What is the “single impulse rule” and how does it relate to criminal damage to property?
This case explored the issue of the “single impulse rule” and how courts use it in a criminal damage to property case. In exploring this case, the court held that the “single impulse rule” applied to the crime of criminal damage to property when the acts comprising the offenses occurred at the same time, at the same place, and were committed pursuant to a single impulse of the defendant and his or her companions. Id. at 112.
In this case, the defendant and four friends entered a golf course after drinking beer throughout the evening. Id. at 110-11. After entering the golf course, they found golf carts, with keys in them, parked in a storage building. Id. at 111. The defendant and her friends then took the golf carts (each owned by a different person) and spent thirty to sixty minutes driving around the golf course. Id. During that time, the defendant ran over a tree with the car, took two course flags, and collided with one of the other golf carts. Id. Eventually, the golf carts became stuck in the mud and the defendant and her friends left the scene. Id. In the complaint against the defendant, the plaintiff asserted the defendant unlawfully, feloniously and willfully by means other than fire or explosives, injured, damaged, and impaired the use of property of two golf carts, one tree, and flag poles. Id. At trial, the jury found the defendant guilty of criminal damage to property. Id. In response to the jury’s decision, the defendant argued that the plaintiff’s complaint was duplicitous (joining in a single count two or more distinct and separate offenses) because the complaint charged property that belonged to two individuals and the golf course. Id.
In addressing the defendant’s argument that the plaintiff could not include two individuals and the golf course in one single complaint, the court referenced the “single impulse rule.” Id. at 112. According to the court, the “single impulse rule” applied equally well to the crime of criminal damage to property. Id. In the present case, the court held that the defendant participated in a series of destructive acts lasting thirty to sixty minutes and causing damage to property owned by two individuals and the golf course. Id. Therefore, the court concluded that the evidence was clear and convincing that the offenses were not separate and distinct. Id. Rather, the court stated that the acts comprising the offenses occurred at the same time, at the same place, and were committed pursuant to a single impulse of the defendant and her friends. Id.
In conclusion, the court found that the complaint was not duplicitous because the “single impulse rule” allowed the plaintiff to include the two individuals and the golf course in the single complaint. Id.