FACING A CRIMINAL CHARGE? PUT ME IN YOUR CORNER
Two men hold back two other men from fighting

CAN I REALLY GET ARRESTED FOR GETTING INTO A FIGHT?

John Della Rocca Dec. 8, 2021

When you disagree with someone, things can get out of control, especially when alcohol is involved. That is why a confrontation between bar patrons often leads to a fight. But can you get arrested and face criminal charges when your verbal altercation turns physical?

If you or your loved one was arrested for fighting, you need to understand your legal options and possible defense strategies. Even a seemingly harmless altercation can lead to an arrest, with the defendant facing assault or disorderly conduct charges.

At The Law Offices of John Della Rocca, I represent clients who face criminal charges after getting into a fight in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and surrounding counties, including Bucks, Delaware, Chester, Montgomery, and other counties.

Arrested for Fighting

Fighting can result in serious criminal charges. A mistake or inability to control your impulses can result in a conviction that would stay on your record forever. When you get arrested for fighting in Philadelphia or other parts of Pennsylvania, you could face assault or disorderly conduct charges.

1. Disorderly Conduct — Under Pennsylvania law, individuals are charged with disorderly conduct when:

  • Making loud and unreasonable noise

  • Using obscene language or gestures

  • Fighting

  • Engaging in violent or tumultuous behavior

  • Creating physically offensive conditions for others

  • Aforementioned to annoy, alarm, or cause public inconvenience

2. Assault (Generally)— Individuals who engage in fighting in public may face simple assault charges when:

  • Intentionally or recklessly injure another person,

  • Attempt to put or put other persons in fear of imminent bodily injury

  • Negligently cause injuries to others with a deadly weapon

3. Simple Assault Statute

§ 2701. Simple assault.

(a) Offense defined.--Except as provided under section 2702 (relating to aggravated assault), a person is guilty of assault if he:

(1) attempts to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another;

(2) negligently causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon;

(3) attempts by physical menace to put another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury; or

(4) conceals or attempts to conceal a hypodermic needle on his person and intentionally or knowingly penetrates a law enforcement officer or an officer or an employee of a correctional institution, county jail or prison, detention facility or mental hospital during the course of an arrest or any search of the person.

(b) Grading.--Simple assault is a misdemeanor of the second degree unless committed:

(1) in a fight or scuffle entered into by mutual consent, in which case it is a misdemeanor of the third degree; or

(2) against a child under 12 years of age by a person 18 years of age or older, in which case it is a misdemeanor of the first degree.

4. Aggravated Assault Statute

(a) Offense defined.--A person is guilty of aggravated assault if he:

(1) attempts to cause serious bodily injury to another, or causes such injury intentionally, knowingly or recklessly under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life;

(2) attempts to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes serious bodily injury to any of the officers, agents, employees or other persons enumerated in subsection (c) or to an employee of an agency, company or other entity engaged in public transportation, while in the performance of duty;

(3) attempts to cause or intentionally or knowingly causes bodily injury to any of the officers, agents, employees or other persons enumerated in subsection (c), in the performance of duty;

(4) attempts to cause or intentionally or knowingly causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon;

(5) attempts to cause or intentionally or knowingly causes bodily injury to a teaching staff member, school board member or other employee, including a student employee, of any elementary or secondary publicly-funded educational institution, any elementary or secondary private school licensed by the Department of Education or any elementary or secondary parochial school while acting in the scope of his or her employment or because of his or her employment relationship to the school;

(6) attempts by physical menace to put any of the officers, agents, employees or other persons enumerated in subsection (c), while in the performance of duty, in fear of imminent serious bodily injury;

(7) uses tear or noxious gas as defined in section 2708(b) (relating to use of tear or noxious gas in labor disputes) or uses an electric or electronic incapacitation device against any officer, employee or other person enumerated in subsection (c) while acting in the scope of his employment;

(8) attempts to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to a child less than six years of age, by a person 18 years of age or older; or

(9) attempts to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes serious bodily injury to a child less than 13 years of age, by a person 18 years of age or older.

(b) Grading.--Aggravated assault under subsection (a)(1), (2) and (9) is a felony of the first degree. Aggravated assault under subsection (a)(3), (4), (5), (6), (7) and (8) is a felony of the second degree.

Philadelphia accounts for the highest number of assaults and aggravated assaults committed in Pennsylvania. In 2016, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, there were over 15,500 violent crimes and more than 7,800 aggravated assault offenses reported to law enforcement in Philadelphia.

Possible Defenses

If you are facing assault or disorderly conduct charges after getting into a fight, I can review your unique case to determine the best defense strategy for your specific circumstances. Possible defense strategies that could potentially help you avoid a conviction include:

  • Self-Defense — You must be able to show that you had to use physical force to defend yourself or counter a threat of unlawful force against you.

  • Defense of Others — If you engage in a fight with the aggressor to defend someone else against an imminent risk of bodily injury or death, you cannot be guilty of assault.

  • Defense of Property — This defense might be applicable if you had to use physical force to defend your property against another person if you believed that your property would be harmed or stolen.

  • Provocation — While courts rarely accept provocation as a complete defense in assault cases, it could be used as a mitigating factor to reduce the charge or penalties.

  • Duress — If you were forced to get into a fight by the threat of injury or violence, you could raise the “duress” defense to avoid an assault conviction.

Consider contacting an experienced criminal defense attorney to determine which defense strategies would help you achieve a favorable outcome in your particular case.

Possible Penalties

Depending on the charge, you could face serious penalties after you’re arrested for fighting. For example, Disorderly Conduct may be a summary offense or a third-degree misdemeanor in Pennsylvania, which is punishable by a maximum jail sentence of 12 months plus hefty fines. However, you could face a longer prison sentence if your charges are elevated to simple or aggravated assault.

Besides imprisonment and fines, you could face other consequences. An arrest for getting into a fight could negatively impact your reputation and employment. You could even lose your job after a conviction. An assault conviction would stay on your record for the rest of your life, which is why you might want to consider hiring a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney to protect your rights and future.

Hire an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

Getting into a fight is always a scary and risky endeavor, not to mention the fact that it can result in devastating consequences and criminal charges. If you or someone you care about was arrested after getting into a fight, it's important for you to contact me, a criminal defense attorney at The Law Offices of John Della Rocca, to help you fight the charges. I represent people facing disorderly conduct, assault, and other charges in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and surrounding counties, including Bucks, Delaware, Chester, Montgomery, as well as communities throughout New Jersey.