Monday, April 04, 2016

What they told me in law school about battery

The lawprofs said it was an offensive contact with another person, as a reasonable person defines offensive. The "reasonable person" found everywhere in legal theory implicitly consents to some level of physical contact in this world, the question is how much. It's a civil violation if done negligently, and eligible for criminal prosecution if done intentionally.

Florida law sounds a little different, just touch without consent, but implicit consent presumably raises its head again. I consulted my sister the Florida criminal defense lawyer, and she confirmed that battery can be all kinds of unusual contact - an unwanted kiss, a bite - and physical injury isn't required.

So consider a hand lightly touching someone's arm, like when Fields' hand brushed up against the garment of The Donald:

The reasonable person says that's not offensive and you can't press charges against Fields, even though Trump is asking if he can. Incidentally, I wonder if that touch is what set Lewandowski off, seeing someone treat Trump like you'd treat a normal human. And among Trump's mental instabilities is that he's a known germaphobe who might react strongly to any touch, but it's the Reasonable Person standard, not Coddled Billionaire/Germaphobe standard.

Going beyond what Fields did, I'd say briefly putting your hand around someone's arm also isn't offensive.

Let's take it two more levels up:  strongly grabbing someone's arm, enough to cause mild bruising, and holding the person back to halt forward movement. I'd say both of those, alone or together, cross the line into offensive touching and meet the technical definition of the crime. I'd also say that if I were a prosecutor, that barring unusual circumstances I'd use my discretion to not prosecute, telling the victim to go to civil court if they want to bring charges.

Lewandowski grabbed Fields hard enough to leave bruising, and more than stopping her forward movement, threw her backwards:

If I were the prosecutor and the victim wanted to press charges, I'd go ahead. That doesn't deny the fact that battery could be much worse than this (and all Fields originally wanted was an apology), but think of the implication of saying Lewandowski should escape prosecution. That's saying that this type of behavior is permissible.

There's a gender/size/aggressiveness bias to that argument:  if you're bigger/stronger and inclined to throw people mildly around, you get to do it. If you're smaller, be prepared to be thrown around without recourse.

I'd say that letting the victim decide whether charges go ahead, and victims don't always get to decide those things, is a good way to even the balance.

Two more comments: first, Lewandowski denied the incident a day after the news broke, three days after it happened:

He said this when some unclear video was available but not the security camera we now see above that removed all doubt. In other words, Corey Lewandowski isn't just a liar but a sneaky little weasel liar who waited on his lie until he thought he could get away with it.

Second, I saw someone point out that the presidential pardon power is especially troubling in Trump's hands. He could get someone to do something illegal and then pardon the person. The only control is impeachment, and that's not an easy thing to do. Someone should ask Trump whether he would pardon Lewandowski if he's convicted, and his answer might be stupid enough to use against him.


Ed Darrell said...

Isn't "known germaphobe" a euphemism for "certifiably crazy and in need of hospitalization?"

Russell Seitz said...

Thank goodness Fields didn't raise her hand to ask Trump a question-- Lewandowski might have called in the Scottish Secret Service:

The Edinburgh Student's Association safe-space policy says student association members must treat each other with consideration and respect, and this is defined as "refraining from hand gestures which denote disagreement or in any other way indicating disagreement with a point or points being made. Disagreements should only be evident through the normal course of debate."

Aaron said...

Anyone running for public office in the US, needs the support of the press, and by implication has solicited reporters' close attentions.

If that is not the case, then the press should stop talking to Trump and stop reporting on his campaign activities. Let's see how Trump likes a few weeks of being absolutely ignored by the press.

Then, he can yell with rage, but nobody will hear. He can file lawsuits, but nobody will know. He can tweet to his supporters, but if they are not published, he will not gain new supporters. Even reprinting Lewandowski's nonsense provides publicity to Trump. Shun the whole crew. Put the whole crew in Coventry. (To be ignored or ostracised. This behaviour often takes the form of pretending that the shunned person, although conspicuously present, can't be seen or heard.)

The press has been giving Trump free publicity. Without that free publicity, Trump is nothing.

What the press has given, the press can take away.

Jeffrey Davis said...

I remember seeing W offer Obama a spritz of some hand sanitizer after the two shook hands once. I suspect W was a germaphobe. Isn't it a cliche that Republican paranoia trends toward germaphobia? Akin to the whole "precious bodily fluids" angst.