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Can a Bar Fight Lead to Jail Time?

Criminal Defense Attorney St. Petersburg Florida

You probably go to a bar to unwind from a long day, but after a bar fight, you might soon find yourself relaxing in jail. To protect yourself, you’ll need an experienced St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney who can analyze the evidence and come up with your best defense.

Crimes You Might Commit

A bar fight might start with a stray remark or an accidental bump, but before you know it people are throwing punches and jumping on each other’s backs. At the end of the fight, there’s a lot of blood on the floor—and many potential crimes were committed. As a participant in a bar fight, you might have committed any of the following:

  • Battery. You commit battery when you intentionally touch someone without their permission. Battery is a first-degree misdemeanor and can result in a year in prison if this is your first offense. However, if this isn’t your first battery, then you can face 5 years in prison.
  • Aggravated battery. You committed aggravated battery if you caused serious bodily harm to someone or used a deadly weapon when you battered them. Aggravated battery carries a maximum 15-year prison sentence.
  • Manslaughter. Obviously, if someone died because of the fight, you could face prosecution for voluntary manslaughter. You could serve 15 years in prison.
  • Accessory to a crime. You might not have participated in the fight but instead helped someone get away. For example, you might have driven someone away from the bar or hidden someone from police. In Florida, it’s possible that you could face jail time as an accessory.



If you started the fight, then you cannot easily claim that you acted in self-defense. The key is whether the violence you used was necessary to keep the other person from injuring you. To claim self-defense, you must provide the correct answers the following questions:

  • Was the other person about to use force without legal justification? (They weren’t, for example, defending against your attack.)
  • Was the force imminent?
  • Did you use only a reasonable amount of force to defend yourself, or did you escalate things?

For example, if someone reached to throw a bowl of peanuts in your face, it’s not necessary to cold-cock them in the nose. However, if someone lined up to punch you, then throwing a punch to repel them might prove reasonable.

Build Your Defense Early

Just because you committed a crime doesn’t mean the state will charge you or try to throw the book at you. Prosecutors have discretion about which cases they prosecute and what charges they bring. To help yourself out, immediately begin building your defense by:

  • Writing down your memories. Who threw the first punch? What did you do in response? Be as detailed as possible.
  • Identifying witnesses. Did anyone see the fight who can testify as to what happened? (Ideally, witnesses didn’t get involved in the fight.) Get their names and contact information, because your lawyer will want to talk to them.
  • Document your injuries. You can lose a bar fight and still face prosecution for battery. However, you might help your case if you suffered bad injuries. Take photographs and keep medical records.
  • Write out your criminal history.

This information will help your lawyer and give you a leg up on building the strongest possible defense.

Call a St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Attorney Today

Mistakes happen, and maybe you took a swing at someone when you shouldn’t have. Contact a trusted criminal defense attorney to start building your defense right now. Rohom Khonsari, the founder of Khonsari Law Group, is a former state attorney who has deep experience dealing with every side of criminal assault charges. Call us today at (727) 269-5300 for a free consultation or reach out to us by filling out our online form.

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