Any time you get in a fight in Florida, there is a chance that you will be charged with a crime. In fact, you may be charged with two crimes: assault and battery. The crime of assault involves creating a “well-founded fear” that violence is imminent, while the crime of battery involves intentionally causing bodily harm to another person.
But, what if you got into a fight? More specifically, what if you were responding to provocation?
In this situation, you may be able to claim self-defense. You may also be able to avoid a conviction by showing that you were engaged in “mutual combat.”
Asserting Self-Defense When Facing Criminal Charges Related to a Fight
In Florida, acting in self-defense can be a defense to assault and battery. Section 776.012 of the Florida Statutes states:
“A person is justified in using or threatening to use force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself . . . against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force.”
Crucially, the law also states:
“A person who uses or threatens to use force in accordance with this subsection does not have a duty to retreat before using or threatening to use such force.”
In other words, if someone hit you and you hit them back because you felt that you had to do so in order to protect yourself, then your conduct was justified under Florida law. With that said, convincing the judge or jury that you acted in self-defense isn’t necessarily a straightforward process—especially if the other person claims that you initiated the fight. It is important to have as much evidence as possible, and you need to be careful because claiming self-defense necessarily involves admitting that you engaged in threatening or violent conduct.
Asserting the Defense of Mutual Combat
What if you didn’t believe that you had to use force in order to protect yourself? In this scenario, you might not be able to claim self-defense, but you might be able to assert the defense of “mutual combat.” Under Florida law, it is possible to avoid a fight-related conviction by arguing that you and the other person both assented to the use of force and accepted the potential consequences.
To successfully assert the defense of mutual combat, you must be able to show that you were not the primary aggressor (i.e., you did not single-handedly initiate the fight). The other person does not need to acknowledge that the fight was consensual (although this can certainly help), and eye-witness testimony, surveillance camera footage, cell phone footage and various other forms of evidence can all be used to show that a criminal conviction is unwarranted.
Discuss Your Case with a Defense Lawyer Today
If you need to know more about defending against an assault or battery charge (or both), we encourage you to contact us promptly. Our teams in Sarasota and Bradenton are here to help you with your criminal defense. Contact us online for a free and confidential consultation.