Thursday, September 10, 2009

Glee: Beware of Flying Mailmen

Facts: To help him concentrate on the road while driving, Finn likes to think about unusual things, such as dead cats. While he's out practicing his driving skills with his mother, Finn is distracted by such thoughts and runs into the local mail carrier, who is severely injured by the collision.

Issue: Did Finn commit a crime even though he accidentally struck the mail carrier?

Law: A battery is an intentional, harmful, nonconsensual touching of another. An assault is either an attempted battery or a negligent injury of another with a deadly weapon.

Analysis: This example highlights the (often confusing) differences between assault and battery. While a battery is always intentionally, the law of assault developed to address behavior that was just shy of a battery. In Finn's case, he likely did not intentionally strike the mail carrier, so he couldn't have committed a battery. But he was rather negligent in not paying attention to the road, so at a minimum he committed an assault as a car has been treated as a deadly weapon.

Bonus: As you can see, there are basic problems with the common law crimes in the context of this case, which is why most states have separate statutes dealing with striking people with vehicles. For example, in Finn's Ohio, they have a vehicular assault law that would likely apply in this situation.

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