Rosenblum Schwartz & Fry

Is it self-defense if you accept a challenge to fight?

While out at a local sports bar, friction starts with another patron. It begins when he bumps into you on the way into the bar, and the two of you exchange a look. After a few drinks, you repay the favor. That leads to a verbal confrontation.

You know you will get thrown out of the bar for fighting. So, the other person challenges you to a fight, telling you to step outside. You're slightly drunk and riled up, so you accept the fight.

You go outside, the fight ensues and the police show up. When they get there, you're on top of the other person, throwing punches and feeling like you're winning the fight.

You get accused of assault, but you believe you acted in self-defense. You didn't want to fight, but that person first bumped you, then challenged you. Then they lost the fight. There's no way you should go to jail for that, right?

A difficult situation

You may be able to make that claim, but you have made things a bit more difficult for yourself. This is especially true if you ever used a weapon. The police may then claim there was a disparity of force. You escalated the fight to a level it would never have reached otherwise.

The problem is that self-defense is typically used to justify protecting yourself from a fight you never wanted to get involved in to start with. If someone jumps you to take your wallet and you knock them out, you simply defended yourself. Given the choice, you wouldn't have gotten into that fight to start with.

In this case, you accepted the challenge. You walked outside and voluntarily got in the fight. It may not matter that the other person challenged you. If you really wanted to avoid the fight, all you had to do was walk away.

Accepting the fight also makes your case more difficult if you used a weapon. You can defend yourself with a weapon if there is a disparity of force that works against you, making you fear for your life. Accepting the challenge may indicate that this was not the case, that you pulled out the weapon just because you wanted to win the fight, not because you feared serious injury or death.

Your legal options

It is important to understand all of this before an altercation so that you know exactly what type of situations you need to avoid. You also need to understand your legal options when facing charges. Remember, a conviction can change your life forever, so you have to know your rights and what defense options you have.

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Rosenblum Schwartz & Fry

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Saint Louis, MO 63105

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