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Transferred intent instruction not error in domestic violence trial

February 25, 2013

An Elkhart County man’s conviction for domestic battery stands after the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Monday that a jury instruction on the doctrine of transferred intent was not an abuse of discretion.

Jose Maldonado-Morales was convicted of Class D felony domestic battery for punching his ex-wife during an altercation in which he later said he was attempting to assault her boyfriend when she stepped between them. He argued that had he hit the boyfriend, he would have been charged with a misdemeanor. Because the divorced couple’s child was present, the charge was enhanced to a felony.

In Jose Maldonado-Morales v. State of Indiana, 20A05-1205-CR-255, Maldonaldo-Morales argued that the trial court erred by offering this jury instruction:

“If one intends to injure a person and by mistake or inadvertence injures another person, his intent is transferred from the person to whom it was directed to the person actually injured and he may be found guilty of domestic battery.”

Senior Judge John T. Sharpnack wrote that the case was similar to D.H. v. State, 932 N.E.2d 236 (Ind. Ct. App. 2010), in which a juvenile was charged with the equivalent of a felony for striking a teacher when he was trying to punch another juvenile, which would have resulted in a misdemeanor.

In D.H., the court determined the culpability requirement of “knowingly or intentionally” in the battery statute applies only to the prohibited conduct of touching someone in a rude, angry or insolent manner.

“The state was required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Maldonado-Morales knowingly or intentionally struck a person, and then prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person that was struck is or was the spouse of Maldonado-Morales and that Maldonado-Morales committed the offense in the presence of a child,” Sharpnack wrote.

“There is no requirement that the state prove that Maldonado-Morales acted knowingly or intentionally as to the status of the victim or the presence of a child,” he wrote.

“The trial court did not abuse its discretion by instructing the jury as to the doctrine of transferred intent.”

 

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