IS DOMESTIC BATTERY A LESSER INCLUDED OFFENSE OF AGGRAVATED BATTERY?
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. Carter, 395 P.3d 458 (Kan. Ct. App. 2017).
This case addresses the following issue:
Is domestic battery a lesser included offense of aggravated battery?
This case explored the issue of whether domestic battery was a lesser included offense of aggravated battery. In exploring this issue, the court held that domestic battery was not a lesser include offense of aggravated battery. Id. at 464.
In this case, the defendant and his girlfriend sat outside of their house drinking beer with the defendant’s brother. Id. at 459. During the evening, a man stopped by the house and talked with the defendant about his recently deceased grandmother. Id. As a result of the conversation, the defendant became very agitated and the girlfriend and brother decided to leave the house to let the defendant calm down. Id. Upon arriving back at the house forty minutes later, the defendant accused the girlfriend and brother of having an affair. Id. After the girlfriend denied the affair, the defendant struck the girlfriend in the left eye. Id. The blow caused the girlfriend to fall to the floor, scream for help, and then lose consciousness. Id. Shortly after, a friend of the girlfriend came over to the house and the defendant admitted to hitting the girlfriend. Id. The friend then took the girlfriend to the hospital where she had to have emergency surgery. Id. As a result of the injury, the girlfriend lost sight in her eye and could no longer driver or work. Id. At trial, the defendant was charged with aggravated battery for knowingly causing great bodily harm or disfigurement upon the girlfriend. Id. at 460. At the conclusion of the evidence, the trial court instructed the jury on the lesser crime of misdemeanor battery (telling the jury that if they do not find the defendant guilty of aggravated battery, they can look to see if he is guilty of misdemeanor battery). Id. After deliberation, the jury found the defendant guilty of aggravated battery. Id.
On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court should have instructed the jury on the lesser crime of domestic battery. Id. at 460. Furthermore, the defendant contended that the trial court’s failure to properly instruct the jury in this regard was clear error because the jury would have reached a different holding if the trial court had instructed the jury on domestic battery. Id.
In responding to the defendant’s argument, the Kansas Court of Appeals first defined “lesser included crime” as written by Kansas statute. Id. at 461. According to the Kansas statute, a lesser included crime was: (1) a lesser degree of the same crime, (2) a crime where all elements of the lesser crime are identical to some of the elements of the crime charged, (3) an attempt to commit the crime charged, (4) or an attempt to commit a crime defined under (1) or (2). Id. With this in mind, the court noted that the only way domestic battery could be considered a lesser included offense of aggravated battery would be if all of the domestic battery elements were identical to some of the aggravated battery elements. Id. at 464.
In determining whether domestic battery was a lesser included offense of aggravated battery, the court looked at the domestic battery statute to determine if it shared all of the same elements as aggravated batter Id. After examining the domestic battery statute, the court noted that it required proof that the physical contact or bodily harm was caused by “a family or household member against a family or household member.” Id. Therefore, the court concluded that domestic battery did not share all of the elements of the aggravated battery statute, and thereby was not a lesser included offense of aggravated battery. Id.