What Were You Thinking, Will Smith?

The 27th of March on the 27th, the 1994 Academy Awards made history in an eerie way. When Chris Rock joked about Jada Pinkett Smith’s hairstyle Will Smith charged the stage and punched Rock on the face before a crowd of thousands of people.

Although the incident did not stop Smith from being awarded an award for Best Actor nod for his part in “King Richard,”” the actor could be subject to different implications according to California legislation (the incident happened within Los Angeles) and the American Academy of Motion Pictures’ Conduct Code.

It’s surreal, as it all appears.

Absolutely, Will Smith Likely Committed the crime of Battery

In California the state of California, simply walking toward someone before striking them with your fist is a crime that constitutes battery. In order to establish that someone has committed a crime the prosecutor will need establish two factors beyond reasonable doubt.

  • Smith has knowingly and illegally engaged in a touch with Rock in an unintentionally harmful or offensive way
  • Smith didn’t act as a self-defense tactic, to defend of another person or when he was reasonably disciplining a child.

In this particular instance, Smith is on video standing up and hitting Rock. The man didn’t strike him by accident. Although Smith might think his actions are justified in order to defend his wife’s honor but you are only allowed to employ violence to defend other people if you believe it’s needed to safeguard their physical injury. A prosecutor will have the ability to prove that Smith was guilty of criminal battery.

The punishment of battery in California which is a misdemeanor can be a fine of up $2000, or six months in the county jail or both. Therefore, Smith could theoretically, at the very least is likely to be penalized with only a tiny fine, and possibly the possibility of jail time.

It’s not clear if either of them is likely. It is possible that neither. Los Angeles Police Department confirmed that Chris Rock declined to press charges in the moment. It is important to note, however that Chris Rock has the ability to alter his mind.

Civil Battery

California offers an option to file a civil suit against the person who committed a battery. If Rock would like to sue Smith the plaintiff would have to prove the following four factors:

  • Smith purposely performed an act known as the Slap which resulted in a sour or offensive encounter against Rock
  • Rock was not averse to the Slap
  • Rock was injured or hurt because of the Slap
  • Anyone in a reasonable place would have suffered or offenders from the Slap

Smith’s issue with a civil lawsuit is that millions of viewers saw him step onto the stage, pull his arms back and then slap Rock on the cheek, all on live television. The video evidence proves it.

Damages for Civil Battery

Rock is likely to prevail in the battery case against Smith. The victim in a battery lawsuit could be awarded the following costs:

  • Economic damage: (e.g., loss of earnings, medical bills or any other out of pocket costs)
  • Economic damages (e.g. suffering, hurt and suffering)

Rock likely didn’t suffer any financial losses however, even though the Slap seemed to be hurtful, Rock shook it off and carried on with the performance. The damages that Rock is likely to be small (although it’s impossible to be certain about awarding pain-and-suffering).

The only way that Smith may potentially suffer financially However, the most likely way to suffer is through punishment for a crime. The purpose for punitive damage is to sanction the perpetrator for their disturbing behavior, and to dissuade other people from acting in similar manner.

Some would argue it was a shame that Slap was a slap that is outrageous and the general public doesn’t like anyone slapping another individuals. While punitive damage could be legal for this particular case, Rock, having declined to pursue criminal charges, appears unlikely to pursue an action in civil court.

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Discipline

If Smith is convicted of any offenses in connection with the Slap the most likely would be impacted by the Academy. In a statement released by the Academy condemns Smith’s behavior and stated that they would initiate an official review of the incident.

The Academy’s guidelines restrict “physical physical contact which is not invited and, in the case of a situation unacceptable and unwanted or coercive or sexually invasive.” The same goes for “intimidation of stalking, abusive or aggressive behavior, or the use of bullying.” Smith clearly violated these rules.

The Academy can take disciplinary measures. It could be a cancellation of Academy Awards or Honors as well as a public or private punishment, and the loss of the right to participate in future Oscars. This seems odd to think about, however Smith could be a candidate for the Academy may theoretically deny Smith of the Best Actor award and eliminate Smith from any his future Oscar selection.

The reason for this is the Slap.

There is no need to resolve this on your own – Seek the help of a lawyer

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