Charges That Commonly Result from Bar Fights in Florida
A fight can quickly start inside a bar and spill out onto the sidewalk, leading to a disorderly conduct charge for fighting in public. Florida Statute 877.03 allows disorderly conduct charges for anyone disturbing the peace in public places, such as outside a bar, in the street, or in a beer garden within the public's view.
You could be charged with disorderly conduct even if there were no injuries, simply for putting the safety of others at risk. Threats, harassment, yelling, obstructing traffic, or other aggressive behavior could all qualify as disorderly conduct. Although usually a second-degree misdemeanor, there's also the possibility of a felony charge if the fight qualifies as a riot.
Disorderly intoxication is a separate charge levied on a dangerous person under the influence of alcohol. If the owner or manager of the establishment asks a belligerent intoxicated person to leave and they refuse, they could be charged with disorderly intoxication. Injuries are not required for the charge, but you could face a second-degree misdemeanor if anyone is hurt, with the potential for a $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail.
Assault charges are reserved for an intentional threat of harm against another person. For example, if someone bumped into you and you responded by threatening to punch them, you could be charged with assault. Assault is typically a second-degree misdemeanor, but aggravated assault is a third-degree felony with a $5,000 fine and a prison sentence of up to five years.
You could be charged with battery if you made physical contact with another person during the fight. The contact doesn't have to have resulted in injury, but it must have been intentional. If you threaten someone before touching them, battery may be charged in conjunction with assault. Battery is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail.
An aggravated battery charge is reserved for defendants who intended to cause serious bodily injury during a fight. A battery charge could also be upgraded if you used a deadly weapon like a bottle or knife or caused someone severe physical harm. Aggravated battery is a second-degree felony with a maximum prison sentence of 15 years and $10,000 in fines.
If the person you were fighting was killed, you could be charged with manslaughter. Manslaughter is a homicide charge that is categorized as either voluntary or involuntary. In voluntary manslaughter, someone intentionally commits murder in the heat of the moment due to provocation or an emotionally-charged situation.
Involuntary manslaughter results when someone is accidentally killed as a result of your negligence. For example, if you take the bar fight outside and punch the victim into the path of an oncoming car, you could be charged with involuntary manslaughter. Manslaughter is typically a second-degree felony but can be upgraded to a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Available Defenses for Florida Bar Fight Charges
There are many possible defenses to criminal charges, but the best one for your case will depend on the specific circumstances of the incident. That said, the charges against you might be reduced or dismissed based on the following:
- Self-defense. If you didn't start the fight, you might be able to argue that you acted in self-defense. If your attorney can prove that you were threatened or that someone else threw the first punch, the charges against you may be dismissed.
- Mutual combat. A charge of battery requires physical contact with another person without their consent. If you and the other person agreed to mutual combat, the other person consented to your actions, and battery would not apply.
- The public was not endangered. The prosecutor must show that you caused a breach of peace that put other people in danger. Swinging your arms or throwing things could cause injury, but you aren't in danger of hurting anyone if you merely shout in public.
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