Biting an officer constitutes an assault charge


Christopher Cleveland was riding as a passenger in a car driven by Kendrick Green when the car was stopped at a routine roadblock. Officer P. L. Gage, one of the officers conducting the roadblock, recognized Cleveland and was aware that a warrant for his arrest had been issued.

According to Gage, when he informed Cleveland of that fact, Cleveland bolted from the vehicle and attempted to flee but was tripped up by the baggy pants he was wearing. Two officers attempted to restrain Cleveland on the ground and place handcuffs on him while he continued to physically resist.

It was during this struggle that Cleveland bit Gage on the arm with sufficient force to leave an abrasion in the pattern of teeth marks that subsequently needed medical attention. Cleveland was convicted of simple assault on a law enforcement officer and sentenced to four years. On appeal, he argued the attack was too minimal to amount to an assault. MCOA affirmed.


Cleveland relies upon MSC case Murrell v. State, 655 So. 2d 881 (Miss. 1995), which held that, if the indictment alleges an actual bodily injury to the victim rather than a mere attempt to do bodily injury, there must be some proof that the victim suffered some actual injury, or at least some physical pain as a result of the attack.

Cleveland seems to contend that a biting injury that does not clearly break the skin is an injury so slight as to be of no moment, and, therefore, not of sufficient probative value to support a guilty verdict of assault.

In the case before us, Gage testified that he was bitten through his shirt sleeve with sufficient strength to cause visible bite marks and possible penetration to the extent that he required medical treatment for the wound. He also affirmed that the bite was painful. We find this evidence to be probative of the issue that Cleveland did inflict bodily injury on Gage within the meaning of the relevant statute.

Cleveland offered no countering evidence tending to impeach Gage’s testimony or suggesting that he might have exaggerated or magnified the extent of his bite injury. The jury, in passing on questions such as this, is certainly entitled to draw on the life experiences and the common understanding of the various members of the jury.

It must be conceded that any typical juror could appreciate the inherent strength of the ordinary person’s jaw muscles and the potential for an assailant to use those muscles in conjunction with the assailant’s teeth to rather easily inflict a very painful and potentially dangerous injury on a victim in close enough proximity to fall prey to being bitten. We find Cleveland’s unsupported contention to the contrary to be without merit.