Lack of Intent and Transferred Intent in Denver Colorado Assault Cases

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Very often a person may be angry with one individual, and as the argument escalates, the person may end up accidentally injuring another person. If you have been in a similar situation and have been charged with assault, you would probably wonder as to what defense you can rely on, and what you would need to discuss with your Denver assault lawyer.

The case of People v. Tafoya helps to clarify where the law stands on this issue (People v. Tafoya, 179 Colo. 438, 501 P.2d 118 (1972)).

In this case, two people had been initially involved in a dispute in a Café, which later moved outside. Both parties, the defendant and the other man had relatives who followed them outside. The defendant and his people then got into a fight with the other man’s relatives, with one of the latter sustaining a stab wound and another injury. According to the defendant, there was no evidence that he was carrying a weapon, in spite of the fact that a doctor and two witnesses claimed that he did. Moreover, the defendant also claimed that there was no evidence that he had the specific intent to carry out the offence against the victim, as his issue was with the man the dispute had begun with, and not with the actual victim. On appeal however, the previous judgment was affirmed, and the defendant was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon.

At the time of this case, C.R.S.1963, 40-2-34 lays down the fundamental elements with regard to assault with a deadly weapon: “an intent to commit upon the person of another a bodily injury where no considerable provocation appears or where the circumstances of the assault show an abandoned and malignant heart,…”. The fact that there was no specific intent on the part of the defendant in this case could not be relied upon as a defense by him, but rather, the concept of transferred intent allowed the intent that he had toward the victim to transfer to the injuries suffered by another.  Note that in this case, the defendant’s reckless actions allowed the court to find that he had the required mental state.  If there were evidence from the defendant’s actions that he had no intention to injury anyone or to take the actions that are required by the statute, the outcome of the cases could have been different.

This case was referred to in a subsequent case, State v Clinton (1980), which dealt with the transferring of intent. In this particular case, it was held that where a defendant had the intent to harm one person, but whether by mistake or otherwise, caused harm to another, this amounted to the ‘transferring’ of intent, and he would still be guilty of the offence, as if he had intended to cause harm to that second individual.

This explanation, with reference to the case of Tafoya, is an interesting one that sheds light and injects logic to the reasoning behind the Tafoya case.

The question arises then as to whether you would agree with this line of reasoning behind not accepting specific intent directed upon someone else other than the victim, as a defense? Some may argue that this is unfair, as the defendant may not have truly had any animosity towards the victim. The fact remains however, that the defendant did still attack the victim, and is an important point to consider.

It would be best for you to speak to your Denver Assault Attorney for any further clarifications on this line of reasoning, especially if it was this defense that you had hoped to rely on.

The information in this post is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or as the creation of an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice, please contact an Attorney.

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Nathaniel has worked in criminal law on both sides of the aisle spending time working for the prosecution as well as the defense. Most recently Nathaniel has represented individuals in violent felonies and drug cases. Prior to this work, Nathaniel handled DWIs, Domestic Violence Cases, Property Crimes, and White Collar Crimes. On the prosecutorial side, Nathaniel has most notably worked in Bosnia helping to prosecute individuals who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Bosnian War from 1993-1995. In particular, Nathaniel helped in the prosecution of military leaders who arranged for the organized murders and rapes of innocent civilians in various towns in Bosnia. Nathaniel is a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, Northwestern University, and Phillips Exeter Academy. Google Profile: Nathaniel Baca