Posted on: 7 June 2016Share
When people are angry with each other, it's not unusual for them to engage in physical combat—especially if alcohol is involved. It's a given that if one person is the aggressor and the second party only fought back to defend his or herself from attack, the aggressor would be guilty of assault. But is it still assault if both parties agree to engage in mutual combat? Here's what you should know about this issue.
Exception Not the Rule
Assault is a crime and, in general, you'll face criminal penalties if you get into a fight with another person regardless of whether you both consented to the altercation. This is because agreeing to perform a criminal act is, in itself, illegal. The only time when you and your opponent can agree to pummel each other unconscious is if you are competing in a legalized sparring match, such as boxing or MMA. Even then, the fighting usually must be done in a ring and overseen by a referee.
Having said that, there are a couple of places where mutual combat is legal. Generally, though, there are rules that must be followed to avoid running afoul of the law. For example, in Seattle, two people can agree to enter a fair fight against each other and won't be charged with assault as long as no property is damaged and no bystanders are injured during the brawl.
If you find yourself facing assault charges for getting involved in a mutual fight, it may be worth working with a criminal defense attorney to determine if there are similarly worded laws on the books in your area you can use to avoid being convicted.
One Time It Matters
Although mutual combat is generally illegal, there is a time when this defense may be used to reduce the charges against you. If you and the other person agree to fight and the two of you use weapons, you may be able to use mutual combat as a viable defense if your opponent dies during the fight. Instead of being prosecuted for murder, you many only face manslaughter charges.
Even here, though, you and your opponent must be on equal terms. If you have a chain saw and the other person has a switchblade, for example, you may be charged with the harsher crime (murder) because the prosecutor may feel the chainsaw gave you a distinct unfair advantage.
To learn more about mutual combat laws or help with fighting an assault charge, contact a local criminal defense lawyer.