Woman Arrested for Assault After Throwing Hot Coffee on Local Shop Owner

by Ambrosio Rodriguez | Dec 10, 2018 | Assault

A Los Angeles woman was recently arrested for throwing a cup of hot coffee on a shop owner in Canoga Park. According to reports, the woman, who is homeless, had been asked to leave the donut shop on Friday. She returned on Sunday in a rage and began to threaten the shop owner. She threw hot coffee on the owner and knocked over tables as she ran out the door.

Police were able to find and place the woman under arrest, thanks to video footage and help from local residents. The victim and authorities believe that the woman may suffer from a mental illness. Charges will be determined once the woman’s mental health is evaluated during a 72-hour psychiatric hold.

Assault vs. Battery

The Los Angeles could face criminal charges for assault and/or battery. While the terms are often used interchangeably, they’re actually two different crimes.

What is Assault?

Assault involves making threats of harm or violence against another person while having the capability to carry out those threats. There’s no requirement to physically touch or harm another person.

When you’re charged with assault, the state must prove:

  • You willfully made an unlawful attempt
  • To cause another person to suffer a violent injury, and
  • You had the present ability to carry out the threat.

In other words, you tried or threatened to hurt another person.

Self-defense can be a total defense to the crime of assault. You’re allowed to use force or threats of force to protect yourself or another person from imminent harm.

What is Battery?

Battery involves willfully using force or violence against another person. Unlike the crime of assault, battery requires you to make contact with the victim. That contact must be classified as harmful or offense. Harmful contact causes bodily injury, while offensive contact offends the victim’s sense of dignity.

When you’re charged with battery, the state must prove:

  • You willfully touched another person, and
  • The contact was either harmful or offensive.

A battery can occur whether or not contact with the victim was direct. For example, you can be charged with battery if you throw a knife at another person and hit them successfully. Contact in this situation would be considered indirect. You set the process of causing bodily harm in motion by throwing the knife in the victim’s direction. It doesn’t matter that you didn’t use your hands to physically touch that person.

How to Distinguish Assault and Battery

Assault is an unlawful attempt to injure or hurt another person. Battery is the use of unlawful or unwanted force against another person.

In simpler terms: a battery is a successful or completed assault.

Is a Cup of Hot Coffee a Dangerous Weapon?

Assault and battery can become more serious crimes when a dangerous weapon is involved. What is a deadly weapon? California courts have defined a dangerous weapon as “’any object, instrument, or weapon which is used in such a manner as to be capable of producing and likely to produce, death or great bodily injury.”

This is a fairly broad definition. Many different things could potentially fall under this classification, including:

  • High heels
  • Hand tools
  • Rocks
  • Knives
  • Guns
  • Bowling balls
  • Musical instruments, and
  • Chemicals.

Could hot coffee also be considered a dangerous weapon? Possibly. Whether or not an object is a dangerous weapon is a subjective issue. This means that there may be times when a specific object is considered a dangerous weapon, and other times when it is not. Classification can vary from case to case, depending on each case’s specific circumstances.

Coffee could be classified as a dangerous weapon if it was extremely hot and had the ability to inflict severe burns that are considered a “serious bodily injury.” Serious bodily injury means a “serious impairment of physical condition,” which can include disfigurement, loss of function, or “a wound requiring extensive suturing.” Burns could potentially be considered a serious bodily injury.

If a cup of coffee is considered a dangerous weapon, the Los Angeles woman may face aggravated charges for her crime. However, if it’s determined that she is mentally ill, that may factor into the charges and penalties she does face.

To learn more, call our Los Angeles criminal defense law firm at 213-995-6767 or visit our contact us page to send us an email.