In Kendrick v. State, the Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed the defendant’s conviction for aggravated child molestation, holding that evidence that the victim gave birth to a child as a result of the offense was sufficient to establish that the victim was physically injured.
The record showed that the defendant had sexual intercourse with L.F. and that she became pregnant as a result. She later gave birth to a healthy child, and the defendant did not dispute that he was the father.
The defendant was convicted of several offenses, including the offense of aggravated child molestation. On appeal, he argued that the evidence did not support his conviction for this charge because there was no evidence that L.F. was physically injured as a result of the offense. The victim, who considered herself to be in a romantic relationship with the defendant, never testified that intercourse was physically painful, forceful, or “otherwise physically injurious.” There was no physical exam conducted near the time of the incident, so there was no physical evidence of injury related to the sexual intercourse.
According to O.C.G.A. § 16-6-4(c), “a person commits aggravated child molestation when such person commits an offense of child molestation…which act physically injures the child.” Neither the statute nor Georgia case law defines physical injury. The Court of Appeals turned to Black’s Law Dictionary, which defines bodily injury as “physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition.”
The Court noted that a full-term pregnancy necessarily involves some impairment of one’s physical condition. Additionally, the Court concluded that L.F. had to experience pain during labor and delivery. Thus, the Court held that pregnancy constituted a physical injury for the purposes of establishing the aggravated child molestation offense. As a result, the Court affirmed the defendant’s conviction.
The interesting aspect of this decision is that the Court held that the pain suffered during childbirth can be used to establish a child molestation offense that occurred roughly nine months earlier. This would seem to be contrary to the legislature’s intent that the bodily injury occur during the commission of the offense. As a result of this decision, courts may now be tempted to look well beyond the time frame of the offense for evidence of pain or injury suffered by the child. This may result in cases where unrelated injuries could be somewhat attributed to the alleged offense, leading to unwarranted aggravated child molestation charges. This is quite significant considering the mandatory minimum 25-year prison sentence that such an offense carries. Georgia criminal defense attorneys should be aware of this decision and be prepared to challenge any such liberal interpretations of it.
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