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Neighborhood disputes can become deadly

A character in a Robert Frost poem felt that good fences make good neighbors. Perhaps it is true, unless the fence is encroaching upon the other neighbor's property line. In this case, the fence may cause good neighbors to become aggressive enemies.

Anecdotes about bickering neighbors are mainstays in stand-up comedy, but in everyday life, when neighbors turn hostile, there is nothing funny about the outcome.

Arguments can erupt into violence

In August 2018, a Nashville man and his neighbor became embroiled in an argument outside their respective mobile homes. Witnesses reported that a 53-year-old male shot his 48-year-old neighbor several times. The wounded man succumbed to fatal injuries. Police indicted the shooter on a charge of criminal homicide.

In October 2018, Nashville police reported an altercation when one neighbor accused another of letting his dog roam free. The angry neighbor believed the dog killed his livestock animals. Witnesses said the two men verbally argued for most of the evening, when the accusing neighbor became so irate, he swung an ax at the dog-owner. The victim received defensive wounds to his forearms. Witnesses, who took the ax-wielding suspect to the ground and held him there until law enforcement arrived, saved the alleged victim from further injury. Police indicted the suspect on one felony charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and two misdemeanor counts of assault.

Potential consequences

Neighborhood tiffs can gather steam until one or both parties lose control and engage in some form of illegal behavior. An assault charge is possible when one neighbor threatens to harm the other with a visible weapon. This behavior becomes battery, a more serious charge, if the neighbor physically strikes the other person with the weapon.

Preserving rights in a heated neighborhood incident

The person charged with a violent crime will need effective defense representation. Witnesses are not always reliable and, if they are members of the neighborhood, they may have formed a prior alliance with one of the parties or the other. Their interpretation of the assault or battery may be inaccurate or unfairly colored by their relationship to the alleged victim. Witnesses may also disagree on events to the point where their accounts of the incident contribute confusion more than enlightenment.

Any person indicted on charges should not discuss the event or admit to any fault, not even to family members or friends. The suspect should not post about the incident on social media or draw in other neighbors to take sides. Any person accused of a possible crime should keep strict silence and insist on speaking only with a criminal defense attorney.

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