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Getting in a Fight Can Lead to an Arrest

Mohammadi & Humayun, LLC March 27, 2024

Police officer puts handcuffs to a manWhen a disagreement turns into a physical altercation, the consequences can be more severe than just bruises and hurt feelings. Getting in a fight can also lead to an arrest, criminal charges, and—depending on the circumstances—jail time. 

Any behavior that disrupts the peace is typically not tolerated by law enforcement, especially when that behavior is violent. Anyone who participates in a public fight in Maryland will be held accountable for their actions under the Maryland Code, Criminal Law §3-202 and §3-203.  

In addition to legal consequences, getting in a fight can also have social and personal repercussions. Your reputation may be tarnished, relationships may be damaged, and it can affect future job and housing opportunities. If you get arrested for fighting, you need to consult a lawyer to understand your rights and potential consequences. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help build a case to mitigate the charges against you and possibly have them dropped or reduced. 

At Mohammadi & Humayun, LLC, we have years of experience defending clients against a wide range of criminal charges, including assault and battery. Our team is committed to providing clear, straightforward advice and robust representation to our clients throughout Montgomery County, Prince George's County, Howard County, and Fredrick County. 

Maryland Assault Laws: What Makes a Fight Illegal?

In our years of practice, we've come to realize that many people are unaware of the intricate differences between assault and battery as defined by Maryland law. While assault refers to threats of or attempts to cause physical harm, battery refers to actual physical harm. The state categorizes assault into different degrees based on the type of harm involved. 

Second-degree assault, often referred to as common assault, encompasses threats of or actual offensive physical contact. However, first-degree assault involves threats of or actual severe physical injury that could potentially result in death, permanent disfigurement, or significant loss or impairment of body parts or organs. 

The severity of assault charges can also hinge on several factors like the identity of the victim (for instance, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and parole officers), the identity of the perpetrator (such as inmates), and whether any weapons were used during the altercation. 

Can Fighting Ever Be Considered Legal?

While physical altercations are generally not tolerated, there are certain situations where fighting is considered legal in Maryland. These include self-defense, defense of others, and mutual combat with the consent of both parties. However, even in these cases, the level of force used must be deemed reasonable and proportionate to the threat or danger faced. 

Maryland's Self-Defense Laws 

Maryland's self-defense laws are structured around the principle of "reasonable force," meaning that an individual is permitted to use force against another to protect themselves or someone else from an immediate threat of harm.  

However, the force employed must be reasonable and proportional to the threat faced. This means that deadly force can only be used if the person genuinely believes that such force is necessary to prevent death, serious physical injury, or a violent crime like rape or kidnapping. 

Maryland also maintains that outside of one’s own home, before using deadly force in self-defense, a person has the duty to retreat or avoid danger if it’s within their power and consistent with their safety. However, if it is not safe for a person to retreat, they do not have to. Inside one's home, Maryland adopts the "castle doctrine," meaning there is no duty to retreat from an intruder before using force. Even in one’s own home, however, the degree of force used must not be excessive. 

To successfully claim self-defense in Maryland, the person must prove that: 

  1. They believed that they (or another person) were in immediate and unavoidable danger of bodily harm. 

  1. The belief was reasonable under the circumstances. 

  1. They used no more force than was reasonably necessary to defend against that threat. 

Given the nuanced nature of these laws, misunderstandings and disputes over what constitutes "reasonable" force are common. This is why individuals involved in such cases often require the assistance of an experienced defense attorney who can help interpret the situation accurately and argue for the justification of their client’s actions under the law. 

The Potential Consequences

The penalties for assault in Maryland can be quite severe. A first-degree assault conviction is considered a felony and is punishable by up to 25 years in prison. Second-degree felony assault carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and fines reaching up to $5,000. Even a second-degree misdemeanor assault, or assault committed by an inmate, can result in up to 10 years in prison and up to $2,500 in fines. 

What if My Child Gets Into a Fight?

Under Maryland law, a "child" is defined as anyone under 18; a child under the age of 13 cannot be charged with a crime.  

In most cases, when a child under the age of 16 is charged with a crime, they will be charged as a juvenile. The juvenile justice system focuses on rehabilitation rather than punishment, so penalties for juvenile offenses are typically less severe than those for adults. 

However, in some cases where the offense is severe or the child has previous criminal charges, they may be tried and charged as an adult. It's essential to seek legal help in these situations to ensure that your child receives a fair and just outcome. 

Defending Against Assault Charges

If you ever find yourself charged with assault, it's important to remember that there are defenses available. Common defenses include:  

  • Self-defense 

  • Defense of others 

  • Mistake of fact 

  • Lack of intent 

  • Coercion 

  • Duress 

We've seen firsthand how these defenses can significantly impact the outcome of a case. It's wise to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can thoroughly evaluate the evidence against you and craft the strongest possible defense strategy. 

We're Here to Help Through Difficult Times

As a criminal defense firm based in Rockville, Maryland, we know it's not uncommon for a heated argument or a minor disagreement to escalate into a physical altercation. However, it's important to understand that such actions can lead to serious legal repercussions, including serious criminal charges. 

If you or a loved one is facing assault charges, we're here to listen to your truth and advocate for your justice. Don't hesitate to reach out. Getting into a fight might lead to an arrest, but with the right legal support, it doesn't have to ruin your future.