We first address Ceaser’s challenge to the admission of evidence regarding her prior conviction for battering M.R. Ceaser argues that this evidence was inadmissible because it bore no relation to any of the admissible purposes listed in Indiana Evidence Rule 404(b), such as intent, knowledge, or absence of mistake. Even if the evidence was admissible under one of these exceptions, Ceaser argues, its probative value was substantially outweighed by its prejudicial effect. Both Ceaser and the State correctly note that we have yet to address this evidentiary issue in the context of parental discipline.
. . . .
In this case, in order to convict Ceaser for battery where the defense of parental privilege was asserted, the State was required to prove either: (1) the force Ceaser used was unreasonable or (2) Ceaser’s belief that such force was necessary to control M.R. and prevent misconduct was unreasonable. Willis v. State, 888 N.E.2d 177, 182 (Ind. 2008). Mistake or accident is inherent in the requirement that the State prove a parent had an unreasonable belief that a particular level of force was necessary. Put differently, the State is required to prove that a parent was mistaken about what force was necessary. Where, as here, a parent asserting parental privilege has a prior conviction for battering the child at issue in a manner similar to the circumstance at issue, that evidence goes directly to the reasonableness of the force used and the reasonableness of that parent’s belief regarding the force used. Here, a jury could infer based on Ceaser’s prior conviction for battering M.R. that Ceaser knew what level of physical force exerted against M.R. was unreasonable. The evidence was admissible under the lack of accident or mistake exception to Rule 404(b). [Footnote omitted.]
The evidence is also relevant to Ceaser’s intent. Contrary to Ceaser’s claim, the intent underlying parental discipline and battery are not the same. See Taylor, 701 N.E.2d at 396 (“a parent’s other disciplinary acts can be the most probative evidence of whether his or her disciplinary corporal punishment is imposed maliciously, with an intent to injure, or with a sincere desire to use appropriate corrective measures.”) (Emphases added). Discipline is defined as “punishment intended to correct or instruct.” Black’s Law Dictionary 270 (8th ed. 2004). A parent who disciplines a child in a physical manner intends to correct or alter their child’s behavior. That corrective intent is lacking in a battery. In order for evidence of previous crimes to be admissible to show intent to commit the instant crime, the defendant must place his or her intent at issue. Reeves v. State, 953 N.E.2d 665, 670 (Ind. Ct. App. 2011) (citing Moore v. State, 653 N.E.2d 1010, 1017 (Ind. Ct. App. 1995)). Ceaser has done so here. By arguing that she exercised her parental privilege in disciplining M.R., Ceaser necessarily represents that her intent was to correct M.R.’s behavior through corporal punishment, rather than to simply batter her daughter. The evidence of Ceaser’s 2006 conviction was also admissible under the intent exception to Rule 404(b).
Although we conclude that the evidence of Ceaser’s past violence toward M.R. was admissible under the intent and lack of accident or mistake exceptions, it may still have been inadmissible under the last part of the 404(b) test if its probative value was substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice pursuant to Evidence Rule 403. . . . .
In both beatings, Ceaser whipped the same child, M.R., with objects—a belt in one instance and a cord in the other. In both instances, visible marks were left on M.R.’s body. The beatings were also close in proximity, occurring in 2006 and 2008, with the 2008 beating taking place less than a year after M.R. was returned to Ceaser’s care. The trial court limited the evidence of Ceaser’s prior conviction, permitting references only to the identity of the victim, the location of the victim’s injuries, and the use of an object to inflict those injuries. Other facts surrounding the 2006 beating, including statements made by Ceaser, were excluded.
We acknowledge that the potential for unfair prejudice was tangible here because the prior misconduct involved violence toward a child. However, we conclude that the trial court did not err in finding that the probative value was not outweighed by the threat of unfair prejudice given its direct relation to Ceaser’s claim of parental privilege, the similarity and proximity of incidents, and in light of the limitations imposed on the use of the evidence.
ROBB, C.J., and NAJAM, J., concur.