When Does Black Friday Craziness Become Assault?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on November 24, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Much as some of us would want to, we can't eliminate all physical contact in public interactions. Especially when we enter crowded areas like swarming sidewalks, stuffed shops and stores, and packed public transit. Sound like anywhere you were on Black Friday?

We might have to expect a couple brushes with strangers on Black Friday, but when do those bumps become assault and/or battery? Here's a look.

Assault and Battery, Defined

Local and state statutes may vary, but generally assault is often defined as an attempt to injure someone else. It's important to note that no physical contact is necessary for an assault to occur, and in some circumstances assault can include threats or threatening behavior against others. On the other hand, offensive or illegal contact must occur for a battery conviction, so assault is often thought of as an attempted battery.

Also, assault is a "general intent" crime. That means that you can't accidentally commit assault, but you don't need to intend the specific harm or outcome to be guilty. You just need to intend the actions which make up an assault, and even an intent to scare or frighten another person can be enough to establish assault charges. So while an unintended jostle at the store doorway may not be assault, an intentional jab over the last video game console, even if it doesn't land, might be.

And battery is a little more easily defined, as an intentional harmful or offensive touching, without consent from the victim. So that shove in aisle six can definitely be battery.

Assault and Battery, Punished

The penalties for an assault and/or battery conviction can vary widely depending on where the offense was committed, the severity of the incident, the offender's criminal history, and even the victim. If the circumstances of the case rise to aggravated assault, the potential penalties would increase, as aggravated assault constitutes a felony in all 50 states.

Punishments can range from fines to imprisonment, with enhanced penalties possible for certain classes of victims like police officers, paramedics, firefighters, teachers, and other public servants. So if the person you assault falls into a protected category, you could be facing more fines or jail time. And if a Black Friday assault results in any injuries, there could be civil, as well as criminal, liability.

There are defenses to assault and battery charges as well, so if you've been accused of assault on Black Friday, contact an experienced local criminal defense attorney.

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