Spitting in someone’s face is one of the greatest insults you can make without saying a word. It also can quickly escalate a verbal argument into a physical one and cause someone to get seriously ill, which is why spitting on or at someone is a crime. Similarly, if a restaurant worker or anyone else spits in the food or drink of a rude customer, they can face criminal charges. If you or someone you know is accused of a violent crime like assault or battery related to spitting, immediately call a defense attorney.
Is Spitting in Someone’s Face a Crime?
Yes. Whether or not you are sick, spitting on someone, especially in their face, is considered battery as it involves indirect and unwanted physical contact that could potentially cause them injury. Even if the spit hit an unintended person, it is a crime because it was intentionally done to hit someone. Normally, spitting would just be misdemeanor battery, but if the victim suffers serious bodily harm (by getting sick with a dangerous disease, for example), spitting on someone can be charged as a felony, which is punishable by up to four years in prison.
In many cases, a criminal lawyer could have misdemeanor battery charges reduced to assault. If you spit on someone knowing you are sick with a contagious illness, though, you’ll probably be charged with battery and intentionally exposing someone to a disease. Willingly infecting someone with a disease is punishable by up to six months in jail. Even just threatening to spit on someone while you are sick could open you up to assault or criminal threat charges.
Is It Illegal to Spit in Someone’s Food in California?
Yes. Spitting in someone’s food is considered battery because, as opposed to assault, this charge requires a person to use violence or force against another. Notably, the contact does not need to cause serious injury and can be indirect. It would be possible for someone to defend themselves from battery charges related to putting their bodily fluids in someone else’s food by arguing that no force or violence was used on the victim. Still, it would be a close call on whether the indirect force of spitting constitutes force or violence on the victim.
Spitting in someone’s food doesn’t just open you up to battery charges; it can also result in food tampering charges if the victim contracts an illness. Under California’s food tampering law (Penal Code section 347 (PC)), it is illegal to willfully add poison or other harmful substances (including spit) to someone’s food, drink, or medical product that could injure or cause illness in another person.
What is the Penalty for Food Tampering?
Food tampering, whether done with poison or spit, is a felony. This offense is punishable by up to five years in prison, but if the victim suffered from great bodily injury, an additional three years in state prison could be added to the sentence. If the person doesn’t get sick from the spit in the food, the defendant could argue no harmful substance was in the food.
If the food is declared damaged and a grocery store or other retailer still owns it, this crime could also be considered criminal mischief, which is the legal name for vandalism. This misdemeanor charge is punishable by up to one year in jail, and you could be expected to pay restitution to the victim for the value of the damaged products.
Real Life Incidents
A few years ago, a fast food worker in Albuquerque, N.M., was charged with battery after she licked the cheese in sandwiches and sucked on ice added to beverages before serving them to parole and probation officers. While this incident took place in New Mexico, she still could have been arrested if it happened in California.
Another well-known example was the Texas teen who posted a video of herself licking a tub of Blue Bell ice cream before putting it back on the shelf in a Wal-Mart store. The incident ended up spawning numerous copycat criminals, including another Texan who was sentenced to 30 days and two years probation for misdemeanor criminal mischief.
In 2020, during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, a man infected with covid-19 spit and coughed on two subway workers. By doing so, he intentionally spread the disease, which left one worker dead.
While spitting on someone or in their food may not seem like a serious crime, these offenses can result in incarceration. Do not speak to the police without first talking to a defense lawyer. If you have been accused of adding any bodily fluids to someone’s meal, please call Peter M. Liss at (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024.