By: Mark Diaz
Share This Post
What Is the Mutual Combat Law in Texas?
In some ways, Texas has had a reputation in the past as the Wild West. If you have ever wondered if two parties in the state can fight without worrying about the legal consequences, the answer is yes. Texas is only one of two states (Washington state being the other) where mutual combat can be an affirmative offense in specific assault cases.
Learn more about the Texas mutual combat law below, and retain our Galveston assault lawyer Mark Diaz if you have been charged with a crime in the incident. Mr. Diaz has over 18 years of experience representing defendants in Texas, and his law office has resolved more than 8,000 cases. He can be reached by calling (409) 407-4784.
What Is the Texas Mutual Combat Law?
Most people know that it is against the law to punch or otherwise assault someone. But did you know that the Texas mutual combat law allows, in certain situations, for two parties to fight and injure one another without legal consequences, to a certain degree?
The law behind certain mutual combat being allowed is Texas Penal Code 22.06. The law states that a party charged with assault can argue that the alleged victim consented to the fight. This defense may apply in the following circumstances:
- The fight did not result in serious bodily injury
- The alleged victim was aware of the risks but consented
Consent does not have to be overtly verbal; all that is required under the law is that you had a reasonable belief that consent was given. However, you must prove as the defendant that consent was reached before the incident. Your Texas criminal defense attorney will review the case evidence to determine if consent can be proven.
What Does Mutual Combat Look Like in Reality?
There are many scenarios where the affirmative defense of mutual combat could be relevant. For example, suppose you argue with someone in a bar, and the argument gets physical. Both of you stand up, and you both agree to go outside to physically fight so you can settle the matter. You both go outside and start fighting, but no one is seriously hurt. This scenario would likely qualify for the mutual combat affirmative defense.
However, this affirmative defense does not apply if you and your friend start a fight club in your basement, you punch him, and break several bones in his face. He agreed to fight you, but the fight caused serious bodily injury. Or, if you and the other person consented to fight and you started kicking him when he was down and could not defend himself, you could be charged with assault or aggravated assault.
You also cannot use this defense if you yell ‘mutual combat’ and start a fight with another person. Remember, consent must be proven for the mutual combat defense to be effective. It does not need to be verbal, only that you reasonably believe the other party consented. In many cases, consent is proven by the other person’s actions before the fight.
Texas Assault Charges
In limited situations, the mutual combat law in Texas can be an effective defense against criminal prosecution. But in many cases, the defense does not apply, and you could be charged with assault. If that happens, you need an excellent criminal defense attorney.
Under Texas law, assault involves three actions in one form or another. What separates the degree of assault charged is on whom the assault was done, the context of the assault, and whether a deadly weapon was used. All non-sexual types of assault will be included in those three actions.
If you are charged with any of these actions, it might seem like a minor case, especially with minimal bodily harm. But state prosecutors are known for bringing excessive charges against a defendant to increase their leverage. For example, it is possible for a Class A misdemeanor assault charge to be turned into a third-degree felony charge to encourage the defendant to take a plea deal.
Class C Misdemeanor Assault
This type of assault does not typically cause injury or harm. This crime would include physically touching the victim in a way that you know is provocative or offensive, or making a threat of physical harm. You could get a $500 fine, but no jail time if you are convicted.
Class B Misdemeanor Assault
If someone not participating in a sporting event physically provokes a player, it is a Class B misdemeanor. This crime also can be charged if the victim is a referee, umpire, or coach. This law was written to address crimes when a sports participant participates in a game and the defendant attacks them. The maximum penalty for this type of assault is six months behind bars and a $2,000 fine.
Class A Misdemeanor Assault
Assault that causes physical injury is at least a Class A misdemeanor. If you are accused of accidentally offending or provoking an elderly person or disabled person, it also is a Class A offense. The maximum penalty is a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
Third-Degree Felony Assault
It will be a Class A misdemeanor if you intentionally harm another person. But it is a felony if the victim is a certain party. For example, if you cause harm to a family member, dating partner, spouse, or roommate, and you have a prior conviction for assaulting a family member, dating partner, spouse, or roommate, in the past, then you could face a felony charge. If you are accused of strangulation or impeding the breath of another (basically, you are accused of choking someone), then you could be facing a third-degree felony. Other assaulted parties that could result in a third-degree felony are:
- Public servants
- Government employees
- Security officers in the course of their duties
- Firefighters and medical technicians
The maximum penalty for a third-degree felony is two to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
What Is the Difference Between Assault and Aggravated Assault in Texas?
The type of assault described so far is assault. Assault requires you to cause harm to someone else intentionally or by using offensive contact, or even just a threat of harm. Penalties for assault are lighter than those for more serious crimes, such as aggravated assault.
Aggravated assault involves the same actions as regular assault, but severe bodily harm, or a deadly weapon was used. In these cases, aggravated assault is a second-degree felony. Also, who the crime is committed against will affect the level of felony charged.
Second-Degree Felony Assault
An aggravated felony charge is always at least a second-degree felony. It also includes a Class C misdemeanor where a deadly weapon was used. So, if you ‘only’ threaten someone and are armed, you could be charged with a serious felony. The maximum penalty for a second-degree felony is two to 20 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.
First-Degree Felony Assault
This is the most severe felony assault charge in the state and just one step below a capital offense. Aggravated assault can become a first-degree felony if it is done against someone in your family, someone you dated, or a resident of your household. You also could be charged with this felony if you committed assault before.
A first-degree assault charge may be appropriate if the crime is committed against a public servant on duty or a witness to a crime. It also may be charged if the victim was an on-duty security officer.
Can You Beat an Assault Charge in Texas?
Even if the mutual combat law does not apply, there are many other potential assault defenses that attorney Mark Diaz could use. Some of the most common and effective defenses are:
People in Texas have a right to defend themselves if it is warranted to do so given the circumstances. So, this can be an effective way to fight an assault charge. If you can show that there was a threat against you and you defended yourself in a reasonable manner, then while you may have technically assaulted someone, your conduct would be legally justifiable under the law. All this being said, keep in mind that your self-defense claim cannot go beyond the harm that was threatened against you. For example, if someone threatened to punch you and you stabbed them with a knife, self-defense would not apply.
If you were acting in defense of others who were threatened, you could beat the assault charge. You also may have the right to stop someone in the process of committing a crime.
Defense Of Property
Unlike many states, you may use force to defend property, if it is reasonable. For example, if someone is stealing your car, you could be justified in physically stopping them from doing so. This is commonly known as the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law, which states that using force, when reasonable, can be used to defend property.
An experienced and skilled criminal defense attorney may be able to use other defenses to beat the charge. They also may negotiate with the prosecutor if the evidence is weak, possibly leading to a reduced or dismissed charge.
Call Our Galveston Assault Lawyer Today
If you have been charged with assault, the prosecutor has to prove you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and many potential defenses are possible. If you can show that the Texas mutual combat law applies, you could have a better case outcome and may even have the charge dismissed.
However, using the mutual combat defense effectively requires the skills of a serious, experienced criminal defense attorney. Call our Galveston assault lawyer at Mark Diaz & Associates for a free legal consultation at (409) 407-4784.