IS PUSHING A HOUSEHOLD OR FAMILY MEMBER IN A HEATED ARGUMENT CONSIDERED DOMESTIC 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. Brown. 262 P.3d 1055 (Kan. Ct. App. 2011).
This case addresses the following issue:
Is pushing a household or family member in a heated argument considered domestic battery?
This case explored the issue of whether pushing a household (sharing a house) or family member in a heated argument resulted in a domestic battery. In exploring this issue, the court held that based on the evidence that the contact was made during an intense argument, a rational fact finder could have found beyond a reasonable doubt that the contact was done in a “rude, insulting, or angry” manner and that domestic battery occurred. Id. at 1057.
In this case, the defendant and his girlfriend were having a heated verbal argument in their home. Id. During the course of the argument, the defendant was trying to leave but the girlfriend would not let him go and blocked the only door in the home. Id. Eventually, the defendant pushed the girlfriend out of the way, and she fell down onto a couch. Id. The girlfriend was not injured. Id. Nevertheless, the police arrived at the home and the defendant was convicted of domestic battery and sentenced to probation. Id. Following the conviction, the defendant appealed the case to the Court of Appeals of Kansas. Id.
The defendant’s main argument was that the facts did not support a conviction for domestic battery. Id. Since the defendant was challenging the sufficiency of the evidence, the court stated that they needed to review all the evidence in the light most favorable to the plaintiff (in this case, the State of Kansas) to determine whether they were convinced that a rational fact finder could have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Id. In addressing the defendant’s argument, the Court of Appeals of Kansas looked to the definition of domestic battery which read, “intentionally causing physical contact with a family or household member by a family or household member when done in a rude, insulting, or angry manner.” Id. In this case, the defendant and girlfriend lived together in the same home, so they were considered “household members.” Id. Therefore, the court addressed whether the defendant’s actions met the “rude, insulting, or angry manner” provision of the statute. Id. According to the court, the defendant intentionally caused physical contact with the girlfriend. Id. Additionally, the court noted that there was evidence that the defendant and girlfriend were in an extremely heated and angry verbal exchange at the time of the contact. Id. Further, the court identified that the defendant’s push was hard enough for the girlfriend to fall down onto the coach. Id. Moreover, the court stated the evidence that the girlfriend was in the defendant’s way was irrelevant in determining whether the contact was done in a rude, insulting, or angry manner. Id.
Based on the evidence that the contact was made during an intense argument, the court held that a rational fact finder could have found beyond a reasonable doubt that the contact was done in a “rude, insulting, or angry” manner and that domestic battery occurred. Id.