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The legal consequences of getting into a bar fight in California

Television shows and movies may make it appear as if bar fights come with no consequences (unless you are the one who loses), yet that is not reflective of reality. Bar fights in California bring penalties upon you whether or not you were the one to start the brawl.

If you are involved in a bar fight, you will face charges. The best thing you can do to avoid or minimize the following legal ramifications is hire a criminal defense attorney.

Legal penalties

The penalties you may receive depend on what happened in the fight.

  • Disturbing the peace: Challenging someone to a fight, participating in a public fight or using language to provoke a fight all qualify as disturbing the peace. The punishment is a maximin fine of $400 and/or 90 days in county jail.
  • Assault: Assault charges result from attempting violence on someone else, even if you did not succeed. This is a misdemeanor that brings a maximum fine of $1,000 and/or six months in county jail.
  • Battery: Battery is a separate charge from assault and means that you actually used violence on another person. If no bodily injury occurred, it is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $2,000 and/or six months in county jail. If you caused serious physical harm, you may face felony charges with more severe penalties.

Penalties may be higher if the other person was a member of certain professions, such as law enforcement or emergency medical personnel.

Defense options

Your lawyer can help you eliminate or lessen the charges through certain defenses. Perhaps you did not have the ability to actually hurt someone (for example, swinging at someone who is not within reach of you), your movements were an accident or the other person misinterpreted your actions. You can also claim false accusation or self-defense, though the latter must meet certain requirements and is harder to prove. Your attorney can determine what defense approach to take for your situation.

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