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Spitting as a Crime: Legal Repercussions Explained

The law considers spitting on a person a “willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon another person.” This offense carries a potential sentence of up to $2,000 and up to 6 months of jail time.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt
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Why Is Spitting Considered Assault?

Someone who spits on or at someone else may have no intention to break the law or hurt the other person, but because spitting can be considered an application of force (i.e. making contact with another person in an offensive manner), it qualifies as a simple assault in the eyes of the law.

Can You Fight Someone for Spitting on You?

In most states, the answer is no. A victim of assault may defend themselves using the minimum amount of force reasonably necessary to stop the attack. The problem with punching someone who spits on you and claiming self-defense is that once the other person is done spitting the attack is over.

So, unless you reasonably believe that (1) he is imminently likely to spit on you again, and (2) the only reasonable way you can prevent this is by punching him, your actions are not self-defense. Instead, you are committing battery against him. The law allows you to defend yourself but does not allow you to take revenge upon your attacker.

Which Diseases Can You Catch from Saliva?

Fortunately, the risk of catching a contagious disease, if you’re spat at, is low. However, you do stand a small chance of catching a cold or the flu.

Other diseases that are spread through saliva include:

  • Tuberculosis
  • Hepatitis
  • Viral meningitis
  • Cytomegalovirus
  • Epstein-Barr virus

What Can You Do Legally if Someone Spits on You?

If someone spits on you, call 9-1-1 and request law enforcement response to the scene. If law enforcement is already there, step aside so they can detain the spitter.

How Disrespectful is Spitting on Someone?

Spitting in public is considered rude and a social taboo in many parts of the world including the United States, while in other parts of the world, it is considered more socially acceptable. Spitting on another person, on the other hand, is a universal sign of anger, hatred, disrespect, or contempt.

What Happens if Someone Spits in Your Face?

If you are you are spat on, health authorities recommend that you immediately wash the saliva off with soap and hot water. If the saliva gets into your eyes, nose, or mouth, wash it out with lots of cold water. If you think you’re at risk of infection, seek immediate medical attention.

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