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COA affirms doctrine of transferred intent applies

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The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed that the doctrine of transferred intent applied in the case of a juvenile adjudicated for committing battery for hitting his teacher unintentionally when trying to punch another student.

While at school, D.H. got into an argument with another student in class. Teacher Joanne Cornett decided to kick the other student out and move D.H. to another part of the room. As she reached for the doorknob, D.H. threw a punch at the other student and hit Cornett in the head. D.H. was placed on probation with special conditions for committing what would be Class D felony battery on a school employee and Class B misdemeanor disorderly conduct if committed by an adult.

D.H. argued in D.H. v. State of Indiana, No. 49A05-1002-JV-92, that there’s not enough evidence to show he knowingly or intentionally hit his teacher. He claimed the doctrine of transferred intent shouldn’t apply because the crime he would have been charged with if he hit the student versus the crime he was charged with for hitting his teacher weren’t on the same punishment level. Hitting the other student would have been the equivalent of a Class A or B misdemeanor; hitting his teacher was a Class D felony.

The appellate court wasn’t persuaded by D.H.’s argument. The state isn’t required to prove he knowingly or intentionally struck his teacher; the state is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt he knowingly or intentionally hit someone. Then the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the victim was his teacher in the course of her duties, which elevates the offense.

“We find that the fact that the victim of a battery is a school employee in the course of her duties is akin to a battery causing a serious bodily injury—it is an aggravating circumstance that increases the penalty for the crime,” wrote Chief Judge John Baker. “Thus, while the State is required to prove this fact beyond a reasonable doubt, it need not prove that D.H. acted with the requisite culpability with respect to this fact.”
 

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