Why a Bar Fight Can Land You in Prison

IWhy a Bar Fight Can Land You in Prisont’s a common scene on television and in the movies. Two patrons get into a fight. In the old days of TV westerns, they might resolve their differences in a gunfight. Some shows and films would have a fight that escalated into involving everyone in the bar. A common scene shows one patron sliding completely across the bar after being hit.

TV and movies are different, however, than real life. In real life, if you get into a fight with someone at a bar, no matter the circumstances, you’ll likely be arrested. Whether you’re charged with a crime depends on many factors, such as:

  • Did you start the fight?
  • Were you just defending yourself?
  • Was the fight voluntary – did you and the other person agree to fight?
  • Was any property of the bar, like glasses, chairs, tables, bottles, windows, or the bar itself damaged?
  • Was anyone hurt and if so, how severely were they hurt?
  • What occurred? Was there a threat? Did you just touch another patron? Were only fists involved? Did you hit someone with a glass? Were weapons involved?

If you were defending yourself, then you shouldn’t be charged with a criminal offense. Otherwise, you could be charged with different types of crimes, depending on the answers to the above questions and other factors.

Many bar fights start because one or more of the participants is intoxicated. After all, that’s the main reason people go to bars – to drink alcohol. Generally, intoxication does not prevent you from being charged with a crime. If you drink, you are normally responsible for your actions afterward.

Potential Killeen and Copperas Cove charges for a bar fight

The most likely charge for a bar fight in Texas is a charge of assault:

A person commits an assault if the person:

(1) intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another, including the person’s spouse;

(2) intentionally or knowingly threatens another with imminent bodily injury, including the person’s spouse; or

(3) intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another when the person knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive or provocative.

A close reading of the statute shows that intent or knowledge can be used to file a charge, but reckless conduct (which is often the case if a patron is drunk) is also grounds for filing an assault charge. Just the threat of bodily injury is enough to be arrested. You can be charged with an assault if you reasonably knew the person you fought with would be offended by the physical contact.

There are also different levels of assault. You could be charged with a felony of the third degree if:

  • You knew the person you assaulted was a public servant or security officer.
  • The relationship between you and the other person was described by Section 0021 (Dating Violence)(b), 71.003 (Family), or 71.005 (Household), Family Code, if certain conditions such as a prior conviction of certain offenses apply, or if “the offense is committed by intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly impeding the normal breathing or circulation of the blood of the person by applying pressure to the person’s throat or neck or by blocking the person’s nose or mouth.”

The Texas assault statute includes other provisions that could result in charges of a felony in the second degree, a Class C misdemeanor, a Class B misdemeanor, or a Class A misdemeanor.

If the person whom you allegedly assaulted dies or suffers a serious bodily injury, you could be charged with murder, manslaughter, aggravated assault, or other crimes that will likely land you in prison for a long time should you be convicted. An experienced Killeen criminal defense attorney works to ensure this doesn’t happen.

A few other common charges arising from bar fights include:

  • Public intoxication. “A person commits an offense if the person appears in a public place while intoxicated to the degree that the person may endanger the person or another.”
  • Disorderly conduct. Often, we will try to reduce an assault charge to a disorderly conduct charge. There are many different types of conduct that can result in this charge, according to the Texas statute, including:
    • Using “abusive, indecent, profane, or vulgar language in a public place, and the language by its very utterance tends to incite an immediate breach of the peace.”
    • Making “an offensive gesture or display in a public place, and the gesture or display tends to incite an immediate breach of the peace.”
    • Abusing or threatening a person in a public place in an obviously offensive manner. The statute does provide a defense for this section, if the defendant “had significant provocation for his abusive or threatening conduct.”
    • Fighting with another in a public place.

Generally, disorderly conduct is a Class C Misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500. Prison time is not normally imposed for a disorderly conduct conviction, unless the charges are elevated or enhanced.

At Mary Beth Harrell Law Firm, we understand how incidents can just get out of hand. That doesn’t mean you should be charged with a crime. The bar fight is a common example. If you get into a fight at a bar, especially if the other person agreed to the fight or provoked the fight, we work to have the charges dismissed or reduced, such as to public intoxication or disorderly conduct.

To assert all your defenses, speak with our seasoned criminal defense lawyers today by completing our contact form to schedule an appointment. We represent clients in Killeen, Temple, Belmont, Copperas Cove, Coryell and Bell Counties, and throughout Central Texas.