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Vomiting On A Person Is Assault And You Don’t Have To Take It

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Have you ever gotten so angry that you wanted to vomit?  How about vomit on another person?  How about so angry that you’ve wanted to make yourself vomit all over a cop?  Yeah, me neither.  But apparently this guy was able to achieve such a level of revulsion.

From the looks of the mug shot, right, and reading through the story, I’d bet good money that the vomiter was also drunk out of his mind, as well.  According to reports, 21-year-old Matthew Clemmens decided to hurl all over an off-duty cop, Michael Vangelo, and the cop’s 11-year-old daughter while in the stands of a Philadelphia Phillies game.  The yakking came after Clemmens’ friend was kicked out for unruly behavior.  Like a true father protecting his cubs, Vangelo bravely pushed his daughter behind him as he watch Clemmens stick two fingers down his own throat and to induce a barfing of vengeful proportion all over Vangelo.  Apparently, Clemmens then socked Vangelo in the face before finally being wrestled to the floor by four or five nearby spectators and eventually escorted to a jail cell once police arrived.  The Phillies then went on to lose 2-0 against the Florida Marlins.  No word yet from the Phillies organization on whether it was due to the early exit of their super fan.

Clemmens was charged with intentional assault, reckless endangerment, disorderly conduct and other offenses due to his upchucking.  Hearing these charges bandied about after a baseball game is as uncommon as fluffy fur on a Persian cat.  But have you ever wondered what do these terms all mean?  And furthermore what conduct actually constitutes a violation of these offenses?  Well, sports fans listen up, because consider this your quick and dirty primer to keeping yourself from befalling the same fate as Clemmens and his ilk.

First assault: this is the most confusing of all terms simply because its meaning can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.  The different usages are more pronounced once you attempt to distinguish the differences between assault in a civil law context and assault in a criminal law context.  Since we’re only talking about criminal law here, let’s stick to that.

Assault in most criminal law statutes mean simply acting in a manner that places another person in fear of their own safety or life, but doing so without the intent to commit violent injury.  Acts such as pointing a gun at a person, but not actually firing a bullet into a person would be considered assault.  Contrast this with battery, which means actually following through with your assault and actually committing a violent physical injury against a victim.  In the gun example, battery would be equivalent to shooting the gun.  In criminal law, you can still physically harm a person without raising it to the level of battery as long as the harm wasn’t intended to be a violent life threatening injury, whereas in civil law, any physical contact changes assault to battery.  Now the reason why Clemmens vomiting wasn’t considered a battery is most likely because it’d be very hard to convince a judge or jury that vomiting constitutes a violent life threatening injury.  Therefore, all you have left with is an assault.

Next up is reckless endangerment: under most state’s criminal law statutes, this term means acting in a way where you place other people in a situation where they are subject to a substantial risk of serious physical injury and do so without regard to your actions.  If this definition sounds very broad to you, it’s because it’s meant to be.  Endangerment can encompass pretty much any situation where someone does something that may make another person get hurt, such as pulling a fire alarm when there’s no fire or even puking on another person.  In both of these examples, the potential endangerment can be an ensuing stampede caused by people panicking from your actions.

Finally we come to disorderly conduct.  This by far is the most broad of all the criminal charges listed so far.  Disorderly conduct is typically defined as recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally committing any conduct, ranging from fighting to unreasonable and persistent noisiness, which causes disorder to the public.  This law was essentially designed to deter people from being jerks.  And in Clemmens’ case, it seemed to not be much of a deterrent.

You may have noticed that I’ve also been using terms such as “recklessly” and “intentionally” when describing these laws.  These are what are called mens rea requirements, which is an entire post for another time, so I won’t go into them right now.  Basically, the lesson you should take from this post is what I believe should be the new golden rule: don’t be a jerk.

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