Is a street fight legal?

Specifically, where both parties agree to the fight and duke it out. I could understand a charge along the lines of causing a disruption, but could either of them be charged with assault?

It is my understanding that assault requires that the victim has an apprehension that they will be harmed. In other words, you make them feel afraid.

I think it would be hard to argue that someone who wants to fight you has been damaged by the fear of your similar feelings.

IIRC this has come up before and I think the answer was “it depends”. I did a quick google search on “mutual combat” and found various cites to it’s being legal under certain circumstances (both parties agree of their own free will, nobody is seriously injured, you can’t keep fighting if the other guy says “I’m done”, etc) however this may well vary by jurisdiction - in one of those old threads some people had links to local police blotters showing the participants getting arrested and charged.

There is disturbing the peace, I believe. Also, does an officer need a victim’s permission to arrest his/her assaulter if they witness the assault happening?

What people get arrested for and what people get indicted or convicted for are two different things.

I’ve been told that mutual combat is illegal in Oregon and IANAL but the laws I’ve been able to find seem to agree with this viewpoint. My understanding is that, if you agreed to fight, then that completely blows any claim of self defense and both parties are guilty of assault.

IANAL but… I have trouble imagining anyone going into a fistfight does not expect some level of harm. They just plan to ignore it.

I assume that the “apprehension of harm” is to eliminate frivolous charges based on the “he tapped me on the shoulder” or “took my arm to escort me out” assault claims. There has to be a real expectation that the person intends to hurt you. there seems to be an urban legend that touching someone with a fingertip automatically means assault.

Professional fighters exist, and they certainly consent to duking it out. So I don’t see why it would be any more illegal for two amateur fighters to do so, barring any kind of time and place restrictions, like “disturbing the peace” or noise complaints. On private property, when neither party presses charges, I doubt there’s anything the police can do.

Hell, my understanding is that there is nothing they can do in domestic abuse situations either if the abused party doesn’t press charges, and in that case there’s usually no consent, they just accept it after the fact.

Your understanding is not correct in all jurisdictions. In some places, if there is a domestic violence call and the police see marks on a victim, someone is going to jail regardless of what the victim wants. Sometimes, if both parties have marks, both parties go to jail.

As for the OP, I think both parties could possibly be charged with one or more of the following: some level of assault depending on injuries, disturbing the peace, dueling, disorderly conduct, and probably public drunk if applicable.

Again, that can depend. Try doing it to a uniformed officer under the wrong circumstances and count how many seconds it takes for he and his partner to be kneeling on the back of your neck putting the cuffs on. I could link to a youtube video of a cop threatening (or warning) a young woman how he’d arrest her for assault (my details may be a bit fuzzy there) if she blew a kid’s soap bubble that touched any part of him. It’s a ridiculous case and hopefully not the norm, but still a real one. Google “officer bubbles”.

I’m not doubting you, I just wonder if you know, what’s the distinction that makes professional (and amateur, if it’s planned, in the ring, etc) legal and two guys just deciding to fight on their own illegal? Or for that matter what’s the difference between two guys duking it out on their own property and two guys sparring in a boxing gym?

I know it’s not the same but I’ve been in plenty of fights (mostly as a kid, but once or twice as an adult) and I never was arrested. I’ve seen many other fights. No arrests there either. I’m sure those situations could have turned out differently if the police were called, but why, specifically?

I’m sure there’s a logical difference between two enemies trying to harm each other and two friends training together (or two colleagues fighting professionally), but I"m not sure what the legal difference is, assuming one of the two enemies didn’t press charges on the other guy.

There’s a blurring of definitions and naming conventions here. What are commonly known as professional “fighters” aren’t technically fighting, they are competing against each other in clearly and quite rigorously defined sports such as boxing, MMA, Muay Thai, etc. Of course, those sports were developed from various regional/culturally practiced methods of actual fighting, so we call people who train and do those sports fighters anyway; it’s similar enough. But generally we only call participants of those sports which use hand and feet blunt-force trauma techniques as “fighters”, and we call participants of other combat-derived sports something else (fencers, wrestlers, judokas, etc) even when those sports use techniques or weapons arguably more effective in real violence than punching/kicking alone.

So even though 2 kickboxers trading punches in a ring looks very similar to a couple boozed-up hockey fans duking it out in the parking lot, there’s a world of difference between the 2 situations and they shouldn’t be (and aren’t) treated the same. For starters, the pros operate under a very complex set of rules, permits, training, safety measures, licensing, etc; pretty much none of which exist in a typical street fight.

Professional fighters are fighting in events sanctioned by the state. They are essentially immune from being charged with crimes of violence while operating under the rules. Remove that sanctioning by the state and the same acts become crimes. If a fighter dies in a state sanctioned event his opponent can’t be charged with a crime, without the sanction he can be charged with murder.

Okay, but that doesn’t address the legality. If I stick to officially sanctioned martial arts moves in a street fight, does that make it more or less legal? Is that the only reason professionals aren’t arrested in the ring at Madison Square Gardens? What if I hold fights at my house, with a ref, and strict adherence to the rules of some particular martial arts federation?

The consensus here seems to be that most street fights are illegal in some way or another. I’m just trying to figure out what specifically is illegal? It seems that you either get charged with assault (in which case one of the fighters didn’t consent) or some lesser charge like disturbing the peace.

But I want to know about the specific case of people fighting on private property where both parties consented to the fight, and let’s say it’s not loud enough to trigger a noise complaint or disturbance. Is that legal? Does it depend on the injuries? If it’s only abrasions and bruises that don’t require hospitalization, is that more or less legal than if one of the fighters breaks a bone or gets a concussion?

What about particularly rough kinds of consensual BDSM? Where do they fit in the fight legality continuum?

Referring to mmmiiikkkeee here, by the way.

TriPolar, it seems like you addressed the legality issue, but what specifically is illegal about fights that aren’t state-sanctioned? Let’s presume no one gets killed or seriously injured, and again, that both sides consented to the activity? What is the crime?

Your state has an athletic commission or something equivalent. Go see them, get a license to operate, get a permit for the specific event, and you are in the clear. Make sure you get all the paperwork right, the promoter of an unsanctioned event can be held liable for any crimes committed at such an event.

You are looking at state sanctioning, it’s not some simple rulebook, you have no license. It is a complex and comprehensive set of regulations and governing bodies that allow exceptions from the normal operation of law. It’s the same way that a surgeon can remove your appendix without being charged with assault with a deadly weapon, and without being charged with murder if you die on the operating table.

The crime is murder. Dueling is illegal and if you kill someone in a duel you aren’t charged with illegal dueling, you are charged with murder.

I stipulated no death though. Certainly beating someone to death is a crime whether they asked for it or not. But what about simply causing bruises on a consensual sparring partner? And again, does that make consensual BDSM illegal, too?

The whole sports thing has come up a few times with hockey, where the participants will occasionally “drop the gloves” and start fighting. Generally, in North America at least, fighting and a few punches thrown is an expected part of the game - by participating in the game, you essentially consent to a level of body contact that would be assault otherwise. Similarly, if two people decide to try their karate skills, they don’t need a karate school sanction to make it official. They both know the “rules” of their “dance”

But, charges have been laid occasionally in hockey games. These tend to be about unsolicited and particularly vicious attacks. Essentially, the logic seemed to be “sure they consented to a level of physical contact, but they did not anticipate/include this”. I assume the same would apply in a boxing match - if one opponent, for example, fell to his knees and the other kept pummelling him in the head, over and over, even though the referee told him to stop repeatedly, and there were significant injuries, then criminal charges would not be unexpected.

SO there’s the distinction - in a parking lot brawl, what are the rules? Do both sides consent freely, or is one side cornered and has no choice? Will the fight stop if one side asks to? What are they consenting to? A few bruises, or possible manslaughter? This is the huge difference between a sport and a brawl - the obvious limits.

Society has a vested interest in making sure that violence is not a typical means of solving disputes. Apart from the social problems and coercive pressures that would result - which is why duels were prohibited - in civilized countries, unlike the USA, the medical costs are paid by society as a whole too.

As an officer told me when I dealt with a guy who attacked me – fighting back makes it a “consensual fight” in the eyes of law enforcement, so it would be hard to press charges for assault against that individual.

(The fact that I was jumped by 3 guys, that I didn’t need to lend a hand on two of them in order to get out of the situation, and that I was able to tell the officer at length everything I did to minimize the harm I inflicted on the person who started the fight made it an easier case.)

YMMV depending on jurisdiction.

At common law, and in most jurisdictions, touching someone with a fingertip would be a battery if it is a crime at all. Assault is essentially a subset of battery that does not require touching.

Having said that, touching someone with a fingertip can be a criminal battery (and certainly a civil battery) if the touching is unwanted.