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Battery: Mutual Combatants

Grown folks should never fight unless they are getting paid for it. That's my view. And as a martial artist, you'd think I would love a good knock-down, drag-out brawl. But the truth is, if I'm not sparring at my dojo, I want nothing to do with physical confrontation. The consequences are just too great.
However, there are always bozos out there who can't take no for an answer. There's always alcohol and large, encouraging crowds that provoke otherwise reasonable people to do dumb things.
And sometimes a fight is unavoidable.
Battery is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in county jail. It is a crime that occurs when one person touches or strikes another without the consent of the victim.
However, when two people are engaged in a fight, it is said to be "mutual combat." That is, each participant has given their consent to their opponent to be hit. When two people square off, or in some fashion (spoken or unspoken) agree to fight, the law understands that each party has permitted the other to strike them, therefore nullifying the "without consent" element of battery. In other words, mutual combatants cannot be charged with battery.
However, crimes such as disorderly intoxication and disorderly conduct may be charged if both participants are arrested.
Don't confuse a mutual combatant defense with self-defense. Florida's Stand Your Ground Law permits you to meet non-lethal force with non-lethal force if attacked or placed in reasonable fear of attack. Self-defense differs from mutual combatant in that one party does not want to fight yet the other attacks.
Fights happen. A mutual combatant defense doesn't necessarily rely on "who threw the first punch." It is possible for two people to be face-to-face in an aggressive manner, challenging each other with words and gestures, and one person decides to act. The person who threw the first punch would still have a mutual combatant defense based on the totality of the circumstances. The opponent's conduct and challenging words may have satisfied the legal definition of consent.
If you or someone you know are charged with battery, contact me to schedule a free consultation.
I practice criminal defense in Miami-Dade County and Broward County. I am a former Miami-Dade prosecutor who has handled hundreds (if not thousands) of battery cases. I have prosecuted and defended misdemeanor battery, felony battery, and aggravated battery cases.