North Carolina defendants and their attorneys, take note: A Colorado man faces a maximum term of eight years in prison after being convicted this week of assault. The specifics of the assault were unusual, to say the least. He was apprehended after walking away from Hilltop House, where he was finishing up his sentence for a 2006 conviction. Hilltop House is a half-way house in Durango that serves inmates as they make the transition from prison to the community.
The arresting officer, from the Bureau of Indian Affairs Police Department, found the defendant in a home. The officer and the defendant struggled, with the defendant trying to unbalance the officer and kicking at his legs. Finally able to handcuff the man, the officer tried to put the defendant into the squad car. Still struggling, the defendant cursed at the officer and spit in his eyes. The officer used pepper spray to subdue him.
And here’s where the unusual felony charges come in. The judge charged the defendant with assault, not only for the kicking, but specifically for the spitting. Because the arresting works for the federal government, the assault charge is a felony.
Spitting, said the judge, may not be the same as hitting someone with a bat or hammer, but it’s “no less forcible” when directed to a person’s face. Defense counsel argued against treating spitting as a felony and tried to persuade the judge that spitting in an officer’s face should carry a one year maximum sentence.
The defendant and his counsel agreed that the defendant would not contest charges of resisting arrest, walking away from Hilltop House, and using alcohol. Alcohol use violated the sentence the defendant had been serving (for assaulting a BIA officer) at Hilltop House.
The judge listened to the officer’s testimony about the physical effect the spitting had on him. He testified that his vision was blurred, his eye was stinging and he had to use a saline wash in that eye for 15 minutes. The officer had sought medical treatment.
There’s an old Russian expression: “We spit in your eye and call it holy water.” In Colorado, best not to try.
Resource: Durango Herald “Resisting Arrest Brings Man Assault Charges” 10/7/10