An enjoyable night out on the town can quickly turn into a nightmare when you get arrested for a bar fight. This sort of thing happens in establishments where alcohol flows freely. After a few drinks, people are more likely to get boisterous and rowdy, especially when the setting is a loud bar or club. Liquor, beer, and other types of alcohol can also cause people to lose their ability to gauge the consequences of their actions – and sometimes they completely lose control. Emotions run high, words get heated, and a minor verbal disagreement may become a violent act or fight. If the police get called by a bar employee or someone else who happens to witness the altercation, or if the other person involved in the fight decides to press charges, you could be charged with disorderly conduct. If someone wound up getting injured in the altercation, the consequences could be even worse. Depending on the scenario, you could face possible jail for simple assault or even prison time for aggravated assault.
Local New Brunswick Attorney Defending You Against Criminal Charges from a Bar Fight
No matter what charges you are facing after being involved in a bar fight, you need knowledgeable and skilled legal counsel to maximize your defense. A good criminal defense lawyer can often get the charges dismissed or reduced to a lesser offense to avoid some of the most serious penalties you’re facing. Our firm defends college students and adults throughout Middlesex County who have been arrested for a fight at a local bar in New Brunswick, Edison, Woodbridge, Piscataway, East Brunswick, Plainsboro, and surrounding communities. Call us today at (732) 659-9600 for a free consultation about your case and potential options.
What Happens When You Get Into a Bar Fight?
On weekends, bars throughout New Jersey fill up with people who, after a long week of work or school, are ready to drink, laugh, and have a good time with friends. Bars figure to be especially popular spots in the aftermath of the pandemic, as more and more people get vaccinated and the world returns to normal. Unfortunately, the more packed the bar, the more likely there is to be a verbal altercation. And alcohol only increases the chances that angry words will lead to actual violence and severe injuries in the form of cuts and lacerations, black eyes, broken noses, teeth knocked out, and concussions. Not only could one of the participants in the bar fight get injured, but an innocent onlooker at the bar might also sustain injuries simply by virtue of their proximity to the brawl.
What Kinds of Criminal Charges You Could Face for a Bar Fight in New Jersey
Generally speaking, there are three main charges that can be filed against someone for getting into a bar fight in New Jersey:
- Disorderly Conduct
- Simple Assault
- Aggravated Assault
The Most Common Charge for a Bar Fight That Does Not Result in Significant Injuries Is a Charge for Disorderly Conduct.
Basically, if you get into a scuffle in a public place that involves any kind of violence, threats, loud noise, or offensive words, you could be cited for disorderly conduct. While a conviction or guilty plea typically results in penalties like probation, fines, and community service, there are situations in which a disorderly conduct conviction can lead to jail time. Under New Jersey law, the judge may impose a sentence of up to 30 days in the county jail. Even in the absence of a jail sentence, a disorderly conduct conviction will appear on a background check and must be included in your answer about having a criminal record if inquiries of this kind are being made moving forward.
The More Serious Type of Criminal Charge You Are Likely to Face for a Bar Fight Is an Assault Charge.
In New Jersey, a person can be charged with assault if they get into any kind of physical clash. The degree of your assault charge will depend on the facts of your case, including whether the other person involved in the fight suffered an injury.
Simple Assault Charge for Fighting at a Bar
When a minor altercation at a bar results in bodily injuries to the victim, but perhaps not the kind of severe injuries that might warrant a visit to the emergency room or hospital stay, it is possible that the accused individual will face charges for simple assault. Under New Jersey law, simple assault charges may also be warranted if the victim was threatened, and they feared that bodily injury might soon follow the threat. This means that you could be subject to arrest for simple assault for either (a) injuring another person during a bar fight, or (b) threatening to injure another person during a bar fight. Did you get into an argument at the bar and punch the victim, or scream a threat of violence while exchanging angry words with the victim? Then you may now face simple assault charges.
Charged with Aggravated Assault on Someone in a Bar
When a bar fight goes too far and the other person suffers serious injuries, it is a possibility that you will face elevated charges for aggravated assault. This is a felony, and it probably won’t matter to the prosecutor or the judge that you didn’t mean to put the other guy in the hospital. The severity of the victim’s injuries will typically force the authorities’ hand in these matters. If you punched, kicked, bit, or otherwise used any physical force against someone else in a fight, and the fight resulted in significant injuries, that factor alone is enough to bring aggravated assault charges against you.
Some of the other circumstances that can lead to aggravated assault charges for a bar fight include the following:
- Use of a gun, knife, or other deadly weapon to cause injury during the fight.
- Brandishing a handgun and pointing it at another person during the fight.
- Assaulting a police officer who was on duty at the time of the fight.
Keep in mind that just about anything can be considered a “deadly weapon” for the purposes of an aggravated assault charge. Even a broken glass bottle or pool stick could be perceived as weaponry if used inappropriately. This means that if you pick up an object, such as a beer bottle or a chair, and then use it during the fight, you could be arrested for felony assault. Beyond that, it’s possible that the prosecution will inflate the case against you and attempt to gain leverage by bringing additional charges for a weapons offense.
Do People Go to Jail for Assaulting Others in Bar Fights in Middlesex County NJ?
A conviction for simple assault carries penalties that include a sentence of up to six (6) months in jail, as well as a fine of up to $1,000. If this is the first time you’ve ever been charged with simple assault or any other offense in NJ, the good news is that you could avoid jail time because judges can be convinced to hand down a suspended sentence or probation, or to impose some alternative form of punishment such as community service, in these types of cases. The bad news, however, is that a guilty plea or conviction for simple assault will go on your criminal record, which could make things difficult for you in the future when you apply for a job. Moreover, if you have a prior criminal conviction for simple assault on your record, this does not often bode well during any future criminal proceedings that you may be involved in if you have another run-in with law enforcement.
Regardless of the circumstances of your case, the consequences of an aggravated assault conviction demand your complete and full attention because it is not uncommon for the defendant in an aggravated assault case to be sentenced to significant prison time. In fact, the penalties for aggravated assault stemming from a bar fight may include a sentence of anywhere from 18 months to five (5) or even ten (10) years in NJ state prison. While a prison sentence is not automatic, the particular facts of your bar fight, as well as the existence of any prior arrests and/or convictions on your record, could go a long way toward determining the penalties imposed by the judge. You do not want to face these charges without the assistance of competent legal counsel because the consequences of a conviction could be devastating.
Consult a Defense Lawyer to Contest Your Bar Fight Charges in Piscataway
Your best chance of avoiding jail for a bar fight in New Jersey is to get in touch with a qualified criminal defense lawyer who can help you contest the charges. An experienced lawyer who has earned the respect of their peers in the criminal justice system might have an opportunity to negotiate with the prosecutor in advance of trial and either get the charges against you downgraded or get them dismissed entirely. For example, if you have been charged with simple assault, there is a provision in the law that allows the charges to be reduced when the bar fight involved two consenting individuals. In other words, if you and the other person willingly fought each other, your attorney may be able to work out a favorable deal with the prosecution. This is just one of the many options that may be available to you when defending your bar fight case.
Talk to a criminal defense lawyer at William Proetta Criminal Law today to find out what your options are. We are pleased to offer free consultations and to set up a time to meet with you at our local office in Middlesex County. Contact (732) 659-9600 if you are seeking defense counsel today.