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When neighborhood disputes escalate

How many people in America have lived next door to an aggravating neighbor? It's a common situation, and most people choose not to engage in arguments or retaliation. Others have a low tolerance for being irritated. Neighborhood skirmishes have erupted into physical fights over seemingly minor issues.

For example, one neighbor allowed tree branches to hang over his neighbor's fence. After getting no results with a tense discussion, the irate neighbor finally lopped off the offending limbs. The tree did not like it, and neither did its owner.

Embittered by the sight of his maimed oak, the tree owner stomped over to his neighbor's house and threatened to sue. The angry tree-hacker revved up his chainsaw and threateningly waved the business end. The alarmed neighbor retreated to his front porch. Safely back at home base, he called for law enforcement. The dispatcher routed two police vehicles and an ambulance to the scene. When the authorities pulled up, the victim dramatically collapsed, clutching his chest. In a weak voice, he urged the officers to hurry because he claimed his neighbor was threatening a chainsaw massacre.

Disputes between neighbors can quickly escalate 

The man who lopped the branches off did not intend to harm his neighbor; he only wanted to scare the man. He was shocked when one of the officers locked him in the back of the SUV and confiscated the chainsaw as evidence. Meanwhile, the paramedics were not too pleased with the other neighbor's fake heart attack, but following their medical procedure, they took him to the hospital.

Disagreements can turn into assault or battery

In an assault, the offender must make a threat of harm with the means to back it up. In the tree dispute example, the man with the chainsaw performed an act of assault, even though he did not touch his neighbor. If he had contacted even a tiny spot on his neighbor's body, he would potentially receive the more serious charge of battery.

Defense counsel can make a difference in court

Those who find themselves on the wrong end of a heated neighborhood incident should not admit guilt or discuss any details with family members, police, witnesses or the neighbor who claims to be the victim. Anyone involved in a neighborhood altercation should carefully consider their next steps.

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