Answer: Yes, spitting on someone is a crime if the spitting meets the intent requirement of the statute.
In the article that follows, we’ll explain.
Is Spitting On Someone a Crime? (Discussion)
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Crime of Spitting On Someone
In most states, there’s no specific crime for spitting on someone, just like there isn’t a specific crime for poking, punching, elbowing, or kneeing someone.
Instead, the crime is defined by the intent of the offender (careless, reckless, negligent, or intentional), whether the offender touched the victim, and what resulted from the touching.
The result could be:
- the victim was offended
- the victim was placed in fear of imminent bodily injury
- the victim was caused pain
- the victim was caused minor injury
- the victim was caused serious physical injury
In combination with the intent requirements, the crimes can be a misdemeanor (less serious) to a felony (much more serious).
Spitting on someone is considered a “harmful or offensive touching,” which is a crime.
In some states, the crime might be called: physical harassment, assault, or battery.
Defendants who are stuck in jail waiting for their court hearing or trial find out that intentional spitting is a crime the hard way.
It is common for defendants wearing handcuffs to spit on deputies who are accompanying them from cell to court and back. Those deputies go straight to their supervisor or even straight to the prosecutor with the report of the offensive touching, which often results in additional charges against the defendant.
These charges can rack up quickly, especially if the defendant ‘assaults’ multiple deputies all at once.
Additional criminal charges can give the prosecution leverage during negotiations and an avenue to obtaining additional convictions which could ramp up the amount of jail time the defendant ultimately serves.
But let’s say the spitting was not careless, reckless, or intentional.
If there was no intent to spit on someone else, then the spitting is not a violation of the criminal statutes.
Can You Go To Jail For Spitting On Someone?
Yes, you can go to jail for spitting on someone.
In most states, spitting on someone would at least rise to the level of a misdemeanor physical harassment or simple assault, and jail time is an available punishment for these crimes.
That being said, the determination to sentence someone to jail for a crime is generally in the hands of the judge, who looks at the crime, the facts of the case, the statement of the victim, the criminal history of the defendant, and the harm done (among other things).
Jail may or may not result in any given case.
Illegal Spitting (Not on a Person)
In some states in the United States, simply spitting on a premises open to the public (road, sidewalk, park, parking lot, library, telephone booth, etc) is illegal.
Riverbank, California has such a statute, which states:
It is unlawful for any person to spit or expectorate any secretion, saliva, or other substance in any place open to the public, upon any street, alleyway, walkway, gully, telephone booth, park or other public way, or in any parking lot to which the public has access, in or upon any premises, public property or vacant lot, or in any water or waterway, upon levees or tanks adjacent thereto.Source
However, in most cases, this offense is a civil infraction (aka violation of a civil city law or code), punishable usually by a citation/ticket and a fine.
In civil infractions, the intent of a person is not relevant.
Thus if a person accidentally spits on public property when he meant to spit in a cup, he has still violated the code and could get a ticket.
Did You Spit On Someone?
Given the amount of violent crime happening across the United States, it is rare for the police or a prosecutor to pursue assault charges for a single spitting incident, unless the offender is already in custody.
That being said, criminal prosecution for spitting on someone is possible.
If you have been charged with assault for spitting on someone, or you think you will be, it is best to confer with an experienced criminal defense attorney in the jurisdiction where the incident took place.
The attorney can help guide you through all of the “what might happens” and answer all of your questions about what you should do and not do.
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