The People vs. Luis Suarez
It’s all anyone watching the World Cup can talk about. Luis Suarez, star striker for Uruguay and Liverpool FC, bit someone again.
FIFA dropped the hammer on him, banning him from nine international matches and four months of all soccer activity. This is being interpreted by the soccer world as a harsh punishment. Even the guy he bit, Italian defender Girogio Chiellini, thinks it is excessive. However, for those of us who live in the real world, it feels like Suarez got off a little easy for basically assaulting somebody. That got me to thinking, how would Suarez fair in front of an American court if Chiellini decided to press charges against him?
First, we must figure out what crime Suarez committed. He obviously assaulted Chielini, but assault is a broad legal term. Which kind of assault did Suarez commit?
The Legal Information Institute defines assault as “intentionally putting another person in reasonable apprehension of an imminent harmful or offensive contact.” Suarez’s chomp definitely fits that description. There is no doubt that biting another person’s shoulder is offensive. I would certainly be offended if someone started trying to eat me.
The next question that needs to be asked is whether this was an aggravated assault or a simple assault. Aggravated assault needs to have an aggravating factor, “such as the intent to inflict serious bodily injury or the use of a dangerous weapon.” Suarez’s teeth are definitely not a dangerous weapon, and I don’t think any reasonable court would count these bite marks as “serious bodily injury.”
As you can see, Suarez barely broke the skin. It’s not like he went full Tyson on the guy and took off a part of his body.
Suarez’s bite would most likely fall under simple assault, an assault that lacks an aggravating factor. Since there was no weapon or fear of serious harm, Suarez’s assault would be classified as a misdemeanor in most states. This means he could receive a jail sentence from six months to a full year depending on the state in which the assault was committed.
Most judges would probably let him serve out his sentence on probation. This could include community service, educational programs, or house arrest.
But wait! This is not the first time Suarez has bitten someone on the field. He bit Ottman Bakkal while playing for Ajax in 2010.
He also bit Branislav Ivanovic while playing for Liverpool in 2013.
This makes Suarez a repeat offender, which would probably result in stricter punishment. For example, if the crime took place in Texas, a repeat offense would land Suarez with a fine of up to $2,000 and automatic jail time of up to 180 days.
Suarez could be in real trouble if his crime took place in California, which has a Three-Strikes law, which forces a mandatory sentence of 25 years to life for anyone who has committed three felonies, or two felonies and a misdemeanor. If Suarez were particularly unlucky and had two of his cases heard by judges who believed his bites were aggravated assaults, Suarez could land himself a serious prison sentence.
Of course, Suarez is a professional athlete, which means that he will never serve any jail time or legally binding punishment for what he has done. Instead, he just won’t be allowed to play with the other athletes for a little while. You know, like a time out.
Welcome to the world of sports. A place where you are legally allowed to do things like this:
So, the next time you decide to bite someone, elbow someone in the face, or just knock someone out, ask yourself this important question: am I paid millions of dollars to play a game? If the answer is no, you should probably refrain from any violent activity. If the answer is yes, go for it! What’s the worst that could happen?
Eric Essagof (@ericmessagof) is a student at The George Washington University majoring in Political Science. He writes about how decisions made in DC impact the rest of the country. He is a Twitter addict, hip-hop fan, and intramural sports referee in his spare time. Contact Eric at staff@LawStreetMedia.com.
Featured image courtesy of [George via Flickr]