Saturday, September 12, 2015

General intent required for leaving scene of injury accident

Rick Kittel won in State v. Heironimus, No. 111,749 (Kan. App. August 21, 2015), obtaining reversals of convictions for failure to report an injury accident and leaving the scene of an accident from Reno County. The conviction for failure to report an injury accident had to be reversed because the statute under which Mr. Heironimus was charged had been repealed at the time of the accident. After reviewing KSC precedent on the interaction between criminal intent and traffic offenses, the COA reversed the conviction for leaving the scene of an accident because the district court failed to instruct the jury that general criminal intent was an element:
Because a culpable mental state is required unless the definition of an offense plainly dispenses with that requirement or clearly indicates a legislative purpose to impose absolute liability and K.S.A. 2011 Supp. 8-1602 lacks both these indicators, it is clear that criminal intent must be an element of that offense. As provided by the criminal intent statutes, if a crime lacks a prescribed culpable mental state, "'intent,' 'knowledge' or 'recklessness' suffices to establish criminal responsibility." K.S.A. 2011 Supp. 21-5202(e). The State therefore needed to plead and prove that Heironimus intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly left the scene of an injury accident in violation of the requirements of K.S.A. 2011 Supp. 8-1602(a).
The COA went on to consider whether omission of the general intent requirement was harmless, but under the evidence presented concluded that "it is possible that a jury properly instructed on all elements could have found that Heironimus lacked the required mental element and acquitted him." As a result, the COA reversed and remanded that count for a new trial.

[Update: the state did not file a PR and the mandate issued on September 24, 2015.]

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