It was supposed to be a harmless night of watching the game down at your local bar. Unfortunately, what started as some good-natured trash talk escalated into an all-out brawl by the night’s end.

Now, you find yourself facing assault charges. And while this may feel unnecessary or unfair, you should not take these charges lightly.

Is this really happening?

Bar fights are more common than you might think. Many people head to the bar to watch high-stakes sporting events, to play competitive trivia, or to hang out and perhaps meet new people. Put alcohol into that mix and sometimes things can just get ugly. Just a few short months ago, over a dozen people were involved in a barroom fight in Lincoln during trivia night at a local Applebee’s.

The truth is that anyone can get pulled into a fight they weren’t looking to start. You may have even been trying to help break up a fight, putting yourself in harm’s way for the sake of others. However, it may not have looked like that to bystanders – or prosecutors.

Penalties for assault charges

To prove assault charges, prosecutors must be able to demonstrate that the defendant knowingly, intentionally or recklessly caused bodily injury to another person. Someone can be charged with misdemeanor assault for even threatening another person with bodily harm, like pointing a gun at them or making verbal threats against them.

The consequences of misdemeanor assault charges generally include:

  • Up to six months to one year in jail
  • Up to $1,000 in fines
  • Possible restitution paid to the victims for their injuries and other damages

Attacking a police or probation officer, using a deadly weapon or causing serious personal injury (like head trauma or injury that results in permanent scarring or disfigurement) all become felony assault charges in Nebraska. As you probably know, felony charges carry enhanced penalties. Those accused of felony assault charges generally face up to 50 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

Defending against assault charges

It may be tempting to go before the court alone and simply explain your side of the story. However, this could backfire on you, especially if you’re unprepared and unfamiliar with how the criminal process works.

A skilled criminal defense attorney can help you sort through the complexities of witness testimony, possible security cam or social media footage, and other evidence to make your case clear. With the penalties you may face, do you really want to risk going it alone?