Can you really get in legal trouble for a physical altercation?

On Behalf of | Oct 21, 2022 | Criminal Defense |

People sometimes get into a physical fight when they had no prior intention to do so. This isn’t something they thought out and planned. It’s just an event that happened. Maybe they had a few too many drinks at the bar, for instance, and they got into a scuffle with someone who bumped into them.

If this happens, you may regret it the next day and hope that you can put it behind you. But then you could find out that the other person has decided to press charges against you for your role in the fight. Can they really do this? Can you really get in trouble for being involved in an altercation? What if you thought it was just a minor event and never took that seriously to begin with?

Pennsylvania assault laws

You may be surprised, but you absolutely can get into legal trouble for a situation like this. It could be qualified as a simple assault under Pennsylvania’s law, for example, which applies when you hurt someone, attempt to cause injury or recklessly do so.

Interestingly, you can also be charged with assault if you “attempt by physical means to put another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury.” In other words, simply threatening to get into a fight with someone could be enough for you to be charged with assault. If they believed that you were being genuine and they were afraid for their own health, they could still claim it was assault even if you didn’t touch them.

The difference between assault and battery

That key fact brings us to one of the most important things about these cases, which is that assault and battery are not the same. Assault, as noted above, can be used simply for making threats or attempting to harm someone. Battery is reserved for a situation in which you actually do make physical contact and they do suffer injuries.

Who started the fight?

In a case like this, the biggest question may simply be who started the altercation. Were you the aggressor, even if you thought it wasn’t a very serious event? Or were you just defending yourself and others who were with you from another person? You’re certainly allowed to use force to defend yourself when necessary. Be sure you know about all the legal options at your disposal.