Can I Be Arrested for Getting Into a Fight?

In 2020, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation recorded 73,127 instances of simple assault and 37,840 instances of aggravated assault statewide.

When people hear the word “assault,” they generally associate it with physical contact, even fisticuffs, but just putting another person in fear of bodily harm is enough to be charged with simple assault. You don’t even need to touch the person.

Aggravated assault fits the popular conception more closely since it does involve physical contact and harm of some sort, and as such carries stiffer penalties.

You may have been out drinking and got into an argument with another person at the bar. Blows are exchanged, the bar owner calls the police, and you’re soon in custody for aggravated assault. Or worse, the person next to you at the bar starts it all and you merely defend yourself — you’re still charged with the offense of aggravated assault.

There are legitimate defenses for both simple assault and aggravated assault, as well as for disorderly conduct, but you’ll need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney.

If you’re facing assault charges in the Chattanooga, Tennessee area, or nearby in Red Bank, East Ridge, or Soddy-Daisy, contact me at the Law Offices of Fisher Wise. I have been helping people exercise their rights under the law for nearly 20 years. I am ready to help you by developing a strong defense against any charge you face.

Arrested for Fighting

Not all fights originate in bars, though bar brawls are somewhat legendary when it comes to depicting assault. Fights can also break out in parking lots over matters as simple as who got to a parking spot first. Even Walmart made history on a Black Friday when patrons stormed in when the doors were opened, trampling other customers.

If you do get into a fight, you could face one of three basic charges: disorderly conduct, simple assault, or aggravated assault. Aggravated assault is also broken down into categories of intentional and reckless. Intentional aggravated assault carries stiffer penalties.

Tennessee law describes disorderly conduct as engaging “in fighting or in violent or threatening behavior” in a public place (a bar, parking lot, store, sidewalk, park, etc.). It is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail, a fine of up to $50, or both.

Simple assault has three parts and only one of which needs to be present:

  • Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing bodily injury to someone
  • Intentionally or knowingly causing another to reasonably fear imminent injury
  • Intentionally or knowingly causing physical contact with someone that can be regarded as offensive or provocative

Simple assault is generally charged as a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500.

Aggravated assault is one that results in serious bodily injury or is committed with the use of a deadly weapon. The deadly weapon — a baseball bat, beer bottle, brick, knife, etc. — does not need to actually be used on the victim, just be in the assaulter’s possession. 

If the aggravated assault is intentional — you were out to get someone — then it is a Class C felony, punishable by three to 15 years in prison. If it is merely reckless, then it is a Class D felony with a potential prison term of two to 12 years.

Possible Defenses

You are allowed to defend yourself if someone initiates an attack against you. You can argue that you acted in self-defense, but your actions have to be proportionate to the threat and force being used against you. If someone slugs you in the face, and you react by smashing a chair over his head, that is not proportionate.

You can also rush to the defense of others, but again, the actions you take in defending the other person must be proportionate. The same holds true if you’re defending your property. Say you return to your car in the parking lot and someone is trying to carjack it. You can use force to prevent the theft, but again, it must be the type of action a “reasonable person” would take. You cannot beat them to a pulp just to make your point.

The police do not always arrest the right person. If you are arrested after a fight and identified by a witness — even falsely — you can argue that you were not involved by showing that you were somewhere else or were just a bystander not involved in the actual feud.

In some instances, certainly with simple assault, you can argue that no assault actually took place. You were just drinking and got into a friendly argument that got too demonstrative. Of course, disorderly conduct might then apply, but it is a much lesser charge.

Hire an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

If you’re convicted of any type of assault, or even for disorderly conduct, not only will you face possible financial and other penalties, including incarceration, but you will also end up with a criminal record. A criminal record will make it hard for you to obtain employment, professional licensing, or even public assistance.

A $50 fine for disorderly conduct may seem like nothing, but you want to avoid a criminal record at all costs. Your record follows you for the rest of your life.

If you’ve been charged for fighting in or around Chattanooga, Tennessee, or in the counties of Marion, Rhea, or Sequatchie, contact me immediately at the Law Offices of Fisher Wise. 

I will listen to your story, investigate, and work with you on strategizing a strong defense. If you’re a first-time offender, we can argue for judicial diversion, so you can complete a program of counseling and/or community service, at the end of which your charge will be dismissed. You definitely have rights and options, so call me now.


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