The short answer is yes, you can go to jail for fighting. However, you have the right to physically defend yourself as long as it is not excessive. Even if you strike first in a fight, you may not be committing a crime. Fighting itself is not illegal if both parties consent to it, but that does not mean you won’t get charged with some version of a crime such as Disorderly Conduct or Assault. Whether your actions are legal, or illegal depends on the circumstance – reason, location, force, etc. There are also of course several types of assault that can occur outside of a fight situation.
Most people who are charged in a fight are charged with DISORDERLY CONDUCT, which is the disruption of the public surrounding the fight. It is a misdemeanor charge that can result in fines of up to $150. However, every fight is different.
ASSAULT is defined as “recklessly or knowingly causing or attempting to cause physical harm to someone.” There are various types of assault in Ohio, but most fight-related assaults in Ohio are misdemeanors. Often, police will charge multiple types of assault to make sure one “sticks.”
If convicted of a misdemeanor assault (M1), it can result in 6 months in local jail and $1000 fine. This is true for other high level misdemeanor assault charges such as Vehicular Assault and Negligent Assault as long as they are not escalated to aggravated assault charges. While these misdemeanor assault charges are generally not associated with fighting, they can be. If the assault charge is classified as a misdemeanor 3 (M3), a conviction can result in 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
When the fight results in serious physical harm, the assault level is elevated to an aggravated assault charge. This is also the case if the action is perceived as taking place during a “fit of rage.” Either of these elements are likely to bump the crime up to the felony 3 or 4 level. Aggravated assault or a felony assault charge is punishable by much longer jail time and larger fines. Again, the severity of the charges and sentencing will depend upon the circumstances.
The person who reports the fight as a crime and the police have a large say in the level of charges that could be brought. Therefore, it is very important to seek the advice of a qualified defense attorney to get your side of the story presented quickly and accurately. There are very good defenses available that an attorney can substantiate and present when you are facing any kind of assault charges. A qualified attorney will ask you questions about the specifics of your situation to help determine the best course of action and the defense that will lead to the best results for you. Defenses for assault can include any of the following.
Self-defense – Even if you strike first, defense of yourself or others can result in dismissal.
Violation of your rights – Police may violate constitutional rights that people are not aware of either at the scene or during the course of the investigation.
Mistaken Identity – This is more common than you might think, especially in crowded places where a fight may occur.
Lack of evidence – The police and prosecution may not be able to show each element of the case needed to convict of a crime.
Types of Assault in Ohio
- Felonious Assault (F2) Ohio Revised Code11 – As the name indicates, this type of assault is a felony due to someone knowingly causing or attempting to cause serious physical harm.
- Aggravated Assault (F3 or F4) Ohio Revised Code12 – Knowingly causing serious physical harm during what is perceived as a “fit of rage”
- Assault (M1) Ohio Revised Code13 – Recklessly or knowing causing physical harm
- Vehicular Assault (M1) Ohio Revised Code08 – causing serious physical injury to another while recklessly operating a motor vehicle
- Negligent Assault (M3) Ohio Revised Code14 – Through negligence, causing physical harm to someone with a deadly weapon or firearm
Fighting is generally a something people want to avoid, but if you were involved in a situation where you felt it was necessary to use force against the other person, you should get the help you need to be properly prepared to stand up for your rights. Whether it was a momentary lapse of judgement, a false accusation, or a mistake, our team can navigate the system with you for the best chance of relieving you of wrongful assault charges and making sure you’re treated fairly. For more information on criminal defense in any type of assault case, contact a qualified criminal defense attorney before only “their side of the story” gets told.