Opprobrious or Abusive Language as a Defense for Battery or Assault

Opprobrious and Offensive language as a Defense for Simple Assault or Simple Battery in Georgia

While some defenses can be applied to multiple crimes, other arguments that only work for specific offenses. Opprobrious and offensive language is one of those defenses. A charge of simple assault or simple battery may be justified if the defendant can prove that opprobrious or offensive language was used before they acted. However, this defense requires the assistance of a knowledgeable Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney to present a well-developed argument with evidence. Contact our offices today if this defense applies to your case.

O.C.G.A. §16-5-25

A person charged with the offense of simple assault or simple battery may introduce in evidence any opprobrious or abusive language used by the person against whom force was threatened or used; the trier of facts may, in its discretion, find that the words used were justification for simple assault or simple battery. 

What Counts as Opprobrious or Offensive Language in Georgia?

There is no set standard for what is or is not offensive language, but Georgia case law can help us determine some rules laid out by the Courts. First, past opprobrious words will not serve as a justification for assault and battery. Cawley v. State, 74 Ga. App. 214, (1981). The simple assault or simple battery cannot take place weeks or even days after offensive words were spoken. It needs to be almost an immediate reaction, and the words must be spoken the in the presence of the assaulting party. The Court has found that offensive words published in a newspaper are not excuses for assault and battery. Haygood v. State, 10 Ga. App. 394, (1912).

Second, threats are not necessarily opprobrious. Kimberly v. State, 4 Ga. App. 852, (1908). The words must be so contemptuous or reproachful that they arouse passions in the other party that force them to commit simple assault or simple battery.

Third, the Court has found that offensive language by a child does not justify assault and battery by an adult. McKinley v. State, 121 Ga. 193, (1904). 

Fourth, opprobrious words only justify simple assault or simple battery, not homicide.

Whether or not the words could serve as justification for the assault or battery is a question left to the jury. Since no jury is the same or carries the same opinions, it is impossible to know exactly what is offensive to them. That is why you need an experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer to help present your case demonstrating why the language was so offensive. Don't take a chance at representing yourself when your future is at stake!

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