COVID-19 Pandemic: Coughing On Someone Can Now Be Considered A Crime


CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Cases have been reported in Chicago and around the country in which people are charged with a crime for coughing on someone, threatening to give them COVID-19. A Chicago law professor said there’s precedent for these cases. 

In one case involving a Wilmette man alleged to have intentionally coughed in the face of a Chicago police officer, the charges are felony aggravated battery.

"If you pointed a gun at somebody and threatened them that would certainly be the basis of an assault charge. I supposed if the contention is that you have a deadly weapon in your possession, which is potentially the COVID-19, and you direct it in somebody's direction it is potentially no different than pointing a gun in their direction," said Chicago Kent College of Law Professor Richard Kling.

Kling said these cases are similar to cases of people who are HIV positive, biting another person, or spitting on them.

"It is a little more tenuous than with a physical object like a gun, but certainly if you are threatening someone with a cough - there are a bunch of cases, not as much with coughs, but biting people when you know you have HIV positive, and there are a bunch of cases that support the proposition that you are guilty of assault. They could prove it," he said.

Proving intent is less certain.

"Obviously the only issue is whether or not you can prove intent to people's coughs."

WBBM: Coughing could be voluntary or involuntary.

"It could be, and then I suppose it is like any other case that questions credibility," Kling said.

And determining if someone actually has the disease would be another factor.

The disease could be viewed as a deadly weapon.