Convict Unsuccessfully Argues that Spitting Does Not Constitute Breach of Peace

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut held that a trial court did not err in denying a defendant’s motion for a judgment of acquittal, as spitting qualifies for the requisite act for a breach of peace.

This case arose from an incident that occurred on December 1, 2005. Following an alleged robbery, the defendant was transported to the hospital after complaining about injuries. He was partially restrained to a gurney and under police guard. He repeatedly threatened an emergency room nurse, and while being discharged, he spat in the nurse’s face.

The defendant was charged with and convicted of breach of peace in the second degree, in violation of Connecticut General Statutes § 53a-181(a)(1) and (5). He twice moved for a judgment of acquittal, which the court denied. On appeal, the defendant argued that “spitting is not a violent behavior and, because he was strapped to the gurney, he could not engage in violent of tumultuous behavior.”

A person commits second-degree breach of peace “when, with intent to cause inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, such person: (1) Engages in fighting or in violent, tumultuous or threatening behavior in a public place.” The language of § 53a-181(a)(1) shows that the legislature intended to prohibit any conduct that involves either actual physical violence or the threat of physical violence. Because spitting involves applying force to a victim’s body, it qualifies as a physical act.

The Appellate Court further noted that the words “inconvenience, annoyance or alarm” encompass conduct that a reasonable person would perceive to be as such in light of generally accepted community standards. The highly unsanitary act of one person spitting on another “is almost universally acknowledged as contemptuous and is calculated to incite others to act in retaliation.” As such, it was reasonable for a jury to conclude that the elements of breach of peace were satisfied.

When faced with a charge of breach of peace or assault, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.