When Can a Bar Fight Lead to Battery Charges?
People may make mistakes or use poor judgment after drinking, which is why bars and taverns are common locations for fights to break out. Unfortunately, when management calls police and officers arrive, it won’t matter who started it or whether your actions were justified. You could be arrested for battery, and possibly even aggravated battery depending on the circumstances. However, there may be a defense available when bar fights and similar physical altercations lead to criminal charges.
You can trust a Fort Lauderdale assault attorney to fight for your rights and work to obtain the best possible outcome, but an overview of the relevant laws may be helpful.
Summary of Florida’s Statutes on Battery and Aggravated Battery: Under Florida law, you may be arrested for battery if you intentionally make contact, strike a person, or cause bodily harm to another. However, the crime is elevated when certain factors are present. You could be charged under Florida’s statute on aggravated battery if you commit a battery as defined by law, AND:
- You intentionally cause great bodily harm;
- Your actions render a person permanently disabled;
- You cause permanent disfigurement to the victim; OR,
- You use a deadly weapon in the course of committing battery.
In addition, you could be arrested for aggravated battery under the theory of culpable negligence if the victim was pregnant, and you knew or should have known it.
Mutual Combat as a Defense: The statute specifically states that an essential element of a battery crime is “against the will” of the other person, so a key defense is to allege that the other person consented to your actions. An example of consent as a defense would be a boxing match, as both participants agree to fight.
Along the same lines, a sub-category of consent that would apply in a bar fight is mutual combat. In other words, your defense to battery charges is the fact that you and the other person mutually engaged each other in a physical altercation. Since an element of aggravated battery is engaging in a battery, mutual combat would serve as a defense to that offense as well.
Criminal Sanctions for a Battery Conviction: Successfully presenting the defense of mutual combat in a bar fight is critical, as the penalties for a conviction are harsh. For a conviction on battery charges, a First-Degree Misdemeanor, you face a year in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. If you have a prior conviction on battery charges, the offense is a Third-Degree Felony punishable by five years’ imprisonment.
Aggravated battery is a Second-Degree Felony, with extremely severe penalties. You could be sentenced to a maximum of 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Contact a Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer to Discuss Assault and Battery Charges
If you were arrested for battery or aggravated battery, whether in a bar fight or other circumstances, retaining an experienced defense attorney is essential. For more information on your rights and defenses, please contact the Fort Lauderdale, FL offices of Attorney Kevin J. Kulik. We can discuss potential defense strategies after reviewing the details of your case.