I. Should Intentionally Coughing On Someone Be Treated As Assault In The Time of COVID-19?
Whenever we hear the term “assault” in a legal context, images of someone getting punched, kicked, bitten, or getting threatened with physical violence readily enter our minds.
When perpetrators of such acts commit common mistakes if charged with assault, they will most definitely receive punishments that can range from heavy fines to imprisonment.
The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has apparently made the definition of assault broader.
Aside from claiming the lives of more than two million people worldwide to date and causing severe economic damage, COVID-19 has also given rise to situations where people are being charged with assault for coughing on someone.
There’s the case of a Florida woman who is facing a misdemeanor assault charge for intentionally coughing on a cancer patient, with the entire thing caught on video.
A similar charge was slapped on a special ed teacher in California after purposely coughing on a 1-year-old’s face after an argument with the child’s mother.
These are among the earliest cases of assault charges stemming from coughing on someone in the time of COVID-19 and aren’t likely to be the last.
The question remains, though: Should intentionally coughing on someone be treated as assault amid a global pandemic?
II. What Being Coughed On During COVID-19 Does To A Person
By now, the world already knows the kind of suffering and anguish that COVID-19 patients and their loved ones go through.
The disease can cause severe illness and death, and a victim of such an act as being purposely coughed on during a pandemic will, at the very least, be dealing with the fear and anxiety of possibly contracting the disease.
Victims of such an act will likely sustain considerable financial loss as well since they will have to pay for COVID-19 testing right away.
Self-isolation will also be necessary, which means taking time off from work and, consequently, losing wages.
If the victim has an employer with a policy of making employees take multiple COVID-19 tests before allowing them to return to work, he or she will be forced to spend more money on such tests.
The cost of self-isolation alone can be high, as the victim may have to stay at a hotel or an isolation facility to protect their loved ones.
Multiple tests, loss of income, self-isolation, and potential hospital stays could cost a person thousands of dollars, all because someone claiming to have COVID-19 coughed on them.
And if the person accused of assault does have COVID-19 and successfully infected the person coughed on, the costs and the risk of severe illness or death will only get higher for the victim.
By the general definition of assault as a deliberate act that injures a person or causes a victim to fear getting injured, claiming to be positive for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, then coughing on someone should, by all means, constitute assault.
III. No Assault Laws Mentioning COVID-19
Admittedly, there is no law explicitly stating that the transmission of COVID-19 is assault.
However, a broader interpretation of laws makes it possible for assault charges to be filed against people who intentionally cough, sneeze, or spit on others in the time of COVID-19.
IV. What To Do When Someone Intentionally Coughs On You
If you find yourself on the receiving end of such an act, you need to contact the police right away. As shown in the cases mentioned above, law enforcement officials actively seek the arrest of people accused of threatening others with COVID-19 exposure by coughing on them.
You will have to prove to the court that your attacker knows that they are COVID-19-positive and fully aware that their actions will cause you injury or fear of injury for it to be considered assault.
It’s also important to show that your attacker was engaging in reckless behavior to make him or her liable for assault. Recklessness in your attacker’s case would include refusing to wear a mask and coughing on you with intent to cause harm.
On top of criminal assault charges, you may also want to explore the idea of filing a personal injury case. With the expenses you will likely have incurred after being coughed on by the perpetrator, it’s only fitting to pursue compensation from the person who put you through all that misery.
Your best shot at getting proper compensation is to have an experienced attorney by your side. If you’re in Arizona and you’re looking for legal representation for your particular case, give the Arizona Criminal Law Team a call at (480) 442-8343.