Neighbors argue and bicker all over the United States on a regular basis, especially in areas where people live in close proximity. This problem can also arise in rural areas as well as urban areas, and the inability of law enforcement officers to respond to a disturbance call can allow the situation to escalate.
What begins as a simple breach of peace can become an assault and battery case very quickly. Of course, responding to this aggression can be evaluated as both or all parties being complicit in the disorderly behavior, often resulting in multiple arrests. However, there are many cases where an aggressive resident instigates a civil tort that can easily become a criminal assault. What should the victim do?
Sometimes an individual is required to defend themselves from physical attack. It is important to understand simply being addressed in an indignant manner is not necessarily abusive treatment. This can be especially true if the aggressor is actually correct in their statements. However, there are cases where abusive language crosses the acceptability line if the behavior is a continuing pattern.
Natural law philosopher Thomas Hobbes said that individual rights end at the end of the fist and the neighbor’s rights begin at the end of the nose. Anytime an individual has been struck, an assault has been committed, but defending yourself physically may create complicity. The cooler head usually prevails in court.
In most states such as Minnesota, a third party can intervene in an attempt to restore the peace. If the third party engages in a physical altercation they could be held civilly liable also, as well as potentially charged with a crime. When the aggressor has possession of a weapon and attempts physical altercation, the dynamic of the altercation shifts to possible self-defense. The third party can also serve as a character witness regardless of their position as a peace maker.
A prominent Minneapolis criminal defense lawyer states “Don’t make the mistake of assuming that a misdemeanor charge is nothing to worry about.” Which suggests the importance of the victim or a neutral party to weigh all options before responding to a physical attack, as physical damage can be causation for a civil tort claim against the attacker.
Call the Police and Be Honest
The court system has an unwritten rule when dealing with disorderly individuals. Those who act like children get treated like children. The adult in an argument always refrains from physical attack, and the court will recognize this, especially in a civil claim filed by the victim.
Taking pictures with proper validation to present as evidence can be a very effective decision, as police do this regularly when investigating neighborhood assaults. Eye witnesses can also help. It is important to tell any investigating officer the truth, including any physical response when attacked. The court can accept a victim response as reasonable, but rarely finds that the attacker acted reasonably.
Keep a Clear Head and a Calm Demeanor
Many states such as Minnesota cannot only apply penalties for disorderly conduct, but can set probation of up to six months and require a $500 security bond from the defendant to ensure that the defendant ceases with the offensive behavior. The smart thing for the victim to do is keep a clear head and call the authorities when possible, defending yourself physically only if absolutely necessary.
Abusive language can still be considered as assault in the right situation, specially if it occurs regularly and becomes a nuisance. A neighbor can still be sued for being a nuisance even if no physical contact is made. Actual physical altercation can result in a criminal charge which can automatically result in a civil claim if there is significant injury involved.
Taking a page from “Thomas Hobbes” book, Nickey Williams respects boundaries but firmly believes in self-defense when necessary. Minneapolis criminal defense lawyer Kevin DeVore takes a ‘no nonsense’ approach to each assault case presented to him and defends his clients’ aggressively, aiming to see that justice prevails and all rights are protected.