Is Spitting on Someone a Crime?

is spitting on someone a crime

Spitting is an expression of disgust and anger for some people. Sometimes it’s not something one can control. Sometimes the temptation to show anger is so strong that people resort to spitting on their target or their disgust or anger rather than hitting them. But this anger could lead you to serious trouble. So, now the question comes, is spitting on someone a crime? Let’s get into the detail of it.

What is spitting?

Spitting is forcefully expelling saliva or other substances from the mouth to eliminate unwanted or foul-tasting substances in the mouth or mucus.

Spitting in public places

It is illegal for an individual to spit saliva, secretion, or other matter in any public place, street, sidewalk, alley, ravine, telephone booth, park, or any parking lot.

Is Spitting on someone a crime?

Spitting can be a criminal offense and may not look like battery when hitting or kicking someone. Still, if you express anger, frustration, or disgust at another person in the United States by spitting on that person, criminal charges are levied against you.

Spitting on an individual

A US appeals court has ruled that when a person spits on another, he gets charged with felony assault. “Intentionally spitting on another person is offensive touching that rises to the level of simple assault,” the three-judge panel wrote.

Spitting in a person’s face is sufficient unwanted contact to support an assault and battery conviction. There is a mandatory minimum sentence where the defendant intentionally chose a victim based on the victim’s race, religion, color, or national origin.

Spitting on a police officer

Spitting is a crime but spitting on a police officer is a bit more heinous offense. 

Police officers are defined broadly by many states to include all law enforcement officials or public safety officials, such as:

Police officers, tribal officers, federal agents (FBI, DEA, ATF, DNR), correction officers (jails, prisons, lockups), probation/parole officers, university police/school officers, transit/parking enforcement officers, and sometimes private security officers or guards.

Many states also provide special protections for other first responders or emergency officials, such as EMTs, firefighters, emergency room workers, and rescue personnel.

Officers must be on designated duty. The prosecutor must also ascertain that the assault or battery occurred against an officer contended in their official duties. 

The officer doesn’t necessarily require to be on the clock as long as he is on job duty. 

Examples of official duties include making an arrest (even if the detention is illegal), directing traffic, or conducting an investigation.

Punishment vastly varies from state to state and depends in part on the circumstances of the crime depending upon the level of harm or risk.

Though there is hardly any defense, there are a few:

  • Lack of knowledge 
  • Accidental touching
  • Excessive force used by the officer

Spitting: Assault Vs. Battery

In the US, the offenses of “battery” and “assault” are usually mistaken or used interchangeably in conversation. Some people even think that battery and assault charges are the same.

Does that mean one cannot get charged with either assault or battery for spitting on someone because it didn’t hurt them? Not really. Spitting on someone is not an act of violence, but it can still lead to a crime.

Spitting as an assault

Assault refers to a wrongful act in which someone reasonably fears imminent harm. It means that the fear must be something that a reasonable person would foresee as threatening. 

Assault requires that the person intentionally commit the act, but there is no requirement that the person committing the assault intends to break the law or use force against the victim. 

It may be possible that the “spitter” did not intend to break the law or harm the person he (or she) spats on, but spitting on someone can be considered a use of force. 

Thus, making offensive contact with another person is a simple assault. Still, if the person spitting made the gesture of spitting at someone’s feet far enough distance that there was no chance of the spit hitting the victim’s feet, it probably wouldn’t be an assault.

Spitting as a battery

Battery refers to the actual wrongful act of physically hurting someone.

A person can be charged with battery if they have caused actual physical harm to another person. Meanwhile, someone can get charged with assault if any threat of injury is present.

Although spitting is considered assault in most states, it is considered battery in some states. Battery requires touching, whereas spitting is a kind of unwanted touching, like in California.

What are the defenses?

If the alleged act could not have caused the use of force on another, it is not an assault. Spitting at someone’s feet at a far enough distance or air strikes that occurred at a distance that had no possibility of hitting another person are examples of defense.

Your attorney can help with your case by providing the defenses of

  • Mistake
  • No malicious intent
  • No contact

Laws in the different states for spitting at someone

Laws relating to spitting on an individual in anger or disgust vary from state to state. Some have minor penalties, while some have significant jail terms.

For example, In nominal cases, courts usually impose a fine and order litter cleanup or community service, where fines range from $25 in Massachusetts to $30,000 in Maryland. In more grievous cases, offenders can get sentenced to prison terms ranging from 10 days in Idaho to six years in Tennessee. Maryland, Massachusetts, and Louisiana laws also allow license suspensions for violators in specific cases. Penalties in all states generally rise for subsequent convictions.


Many people are not sure for is spitting on someone a crime or not. Most states in US take spitting as midemeanor. If you spit on something or someone in the United States of America, you will be held criminally liable. In some states, it is assault, while in others, it is a battery. It is a crime in most states and also in federal law. 

There are specific defense mechanisms, such as not causing any force or sensation against your body or being in self-defense. There are fines for this, and you can also go to jail.


Is spitting a crime?

Yes, you would be liable if you spit on something or someone because it is a crime in the United States of America.

What are the consequences after being accused of spitting?

Getting convicted of even a minor crime can have severe consequences like not getting school, college admissions, jobs, and even get a jail term.

Is spitting on someone a felony or a misdemeanor?

A misdemeanor means something wrong but not too serious, so spitting is a misdemeanor because it is not a heinous crime.

Is self-defense a valid defense for the conviction of spitting on someone?

Yes, in most states, if you spit on someone for self-defense, you can use this as your defense against an assault case of spitting.