Viral Head-Butting Video: A Legal Breakdown
The video that follows, depicting a clear-cut head-butt in a Texas Walmart, has been making the social media rounds lately. So we decided to give it the legal blow-by-vicious-blow breakdown it so richly deserves. Please come along...
After some initial verbal sparring, Jessica Albitz escalates the confrontation with a stunningly executed head-butt on Alice Keener. Albitz appears to rear back before delivering the brow blow, so there seems to be little question of intent.
Texas Penal Code section 22.01 defines assault as "intentionally or knowingly caus[ing] physical contact with another when the person knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive or provocative." Given the circumstances, and Keener's response, Albitz could likely be charged with simple assault, a misdemeanor.
In response to the brutal head-butt, Keener reaches for Albitz's head, grabs her hair, begins pushing her into some shelves, and finally wrestles her to the floor. Given Albitz's claimed injuries after the incident, Keener could also be charged under the above assault statute, which also outlaws "intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly caus[ing] bodily injury to another."
However, Texas's statutes do provide a claim of self-defense "when and to the degree the actor reasonably believes the force is immediately necessary to protect the actor against the other's use or attempted use of unlawful force." In light of Albitz's initial use of force, Keener probably has a valid defense.
Both women appear to have avoided any assault charge. Officers issued a criminal trespass warning to Albitz regarding the Walmart, which under Texas law is an order to stay away from specified property or face a misdemeanor trespassing charge.
It is unclear whether either woman has taken advantage of Walmart's on-site legal services.
This latest spat may be the least of Walmart's woes, given ongoing lawsuits from the parents of a mentally disabled woman aggressively arrested for allegedly shoplifting, the family of a man shot to death while holding a bb gun for sale in that same store, and actor Tracy Morgan's crash injuries.
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