Sometimes there’s a thin line between generosity and property damage. Oak Lawn, Illinois resident Natasha West thought she’d found a loophole in the Denny’s pancake policy when she decided to treat her friends to a meal. West placed a single $4-order for all-you-can-eat pancakes and proceeded to share with everyone at the table. When her server asked her to stop distributing the flapjacks to her fellow diners, West allegedly became “irate,” swinging her fists, swearing, and generally causing a ruckus. West left without paying her bill and reportedly kicked the door several times on her way out. She was eventually arrested and charged with assault and damage to property. Read the story on Huffington Post.

At the common law, pretty much any unwelcome encounter between people that fell short of a battery could be charged as an assault. The Indiana Code, however, does not define or contain references to the crime of assault. Thus, if you acted this way in Indiana, the behavior that qualified as assault in Illinois would likely be characterized as disorderly conduct (a Class B misdemeanor and punishable with up to 180 days in jail). Likewise, the damage to property would be charged as criminal mischief (also a Class B misdemeanor and punishable with up to 180 days in jail). There is no guarantee you’d be allowed back at Denny’s.

The customer is always right” may be a recognizable and well-worn motto of the service industry, but it’s definitely not a binding legal principle. Even when you’re absolutely certain that you’re right (which is usually a good sign that you aren’t), show some humility. Don’t be mean to servers and clerks. If you don’t find the Golden Rule persuasive, try thinking of good manners as a free insurance policy against a disorderly conduct charge. It never hurts to be polite.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a misunderstanding that got out of hand, the attorneys at the Marc Lopez Law Firm are here to help. Call us at 317-632-3642.