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Self-Defense or Intentional Assault in Black Friday SoCal Pepper Spraying?

December 2, 2011
By The Law Offices of Vincent J. LaBarbera, Jr. on December 2, 2011 9:04 AM |

Shoppers in Southern California made news already this holiday season in a bad way when a woman at a Wal-Mart north of Los Angeles was accused of pepper spraying other customers on Black Friday, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Retailers have been pumping consumers with advertisements in newspapers, online, on television and through the mail for weeks. Many decided to forgo the 5 a.m. store openings on Friday and opted instead to begin shopping Thanksgiving Day, some as early as 9 p.m.
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In this case, it's unclear whether the woman may have acted in self-defense, which often is a defense for a charge of battery in Santa Ana.

People sometimes get assault and battery confused. Assault involves not necessarily intending to injure someone, while battery requires a person to strike or injure another person through some action. The charges are somewhat intertwined, which can be confusing.

In this case, if the woman is found, it's possible she could be charged with assault or battery. As our Santa Ana criminal defense lawyers well know, the difference between the charges means a difference in possible penalties. It's also clear that self-defense is a very real defense in this case.

According to the newspaper's account, police reported "pandemonium" when a video game display offering $60 games for $30 was unveiled to people who began shopping at this particular Wal-Mart when it opened for Black Friday sales at approximately 10 p.m. Thanksgiving Day.

In the problems that ensued, one woman allegedly pulled out a can of pepper spray and sprayed about 20 consumers who were nearby. Police have said at first they thought she was just angling to get the best deals, but now they think she may have acted in self defense.

After reviewing video surveillance and interviewing more than a dozen witnesses, police are reconsidering whether or not criminal charges should be filed. They hope to speak to another 10 witnesses. One witness told the paper that at about 9:55 p.m., people started shoving and pulling the plastic off the pallets of video games, which led to a stampede. On video, people can be heard saying "I'm being trampled, I'm being crushed."

Police hope to work out a plan for major shopping events to ensure that people are kept safe. But this isn't the first example of problems on Black Friday. A few years ago, a Wal-Mart employee in New York was trampled by mobs of people rushing into the store. In the San Francisco Bay area, a person was shot by would-be robbers as they walked to their cars. Last week in Arkansas, fights broke out over $2 waffle irons.

The bottom line is that if you are charged with a crime in Santa Ana, you need legal representation. If the emotions of a big sale got the best of you and you made a one-time mistake, you must have a lawyer by your side to help guide you through the complex and fast-moving criminal justice system.

If you are facing assault or battery charges in Orange County, contact the Law Offices of Vincent J. LaBarbera Jr. to discuss your options. With three decades of experience, Attorney LaBarbera has argued more than 200 criminal trials and appeals. Call (714) 541-9668 for a confidential appointment to discuss your rights.

More Blog Entries:

People v. Vang Highlights Need For Aggressive, Attentive Santa Ana Criminal Defense Lawyer: November 10, 2011

Additional Resources:

Wal-Mart pepper-spray attack caused 'total pandemonium,' says LAPD, by Andrew Blankstein, Los Angeles Times