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The other guy at the bar was drunk and belligerent. You did everything you could to avoid a confrontation, but eventually, he took a swing at you and you had no choice but to defend yourself. But then the police arrived and arrested both of you on assault charges.

Now you are facing possible fines and even jail time for a bar fight you did not start.  You may be wondering if you can plead self-defense to the charges.

What about claiming self-defense?

The answer is yes, though it can be difficult to establish self-defense as a viable defense to an assault charge arising from a fight in a bar or parking lot. Self-defense is generally limited to the amount of force necessary against someone else who is trying to cause you serious injury. Then it becomes a question of if you did just enough to protect yourself, or if you became the aggressor at any point.

Escape is another factor in the affirmative defense of self-defense. Alaska has a “stand your ground” self-defense law that allows you to use deadly force against an assailant. But that only applies when you are in your home or workplace. Otherwise, you are required to escape a fight if reasonably possible. So, in a bar fight, if you can get to the exit or a separate room, you have the legal responsibility to do so. Otherwise, you may not be able to claim self-defense.

There are always options

None of this means that you must automatically plead guilty to assault for a bar fight that you did not start. Each case is different, and an experienced defense attorney will know how to work with you to develop the best possible legal strategy. This could include refusing to make a plea deal and confronting the charges in court.