What to do after a bar-room brawl

After being involved in a bar-room brawl in which threats were exchanged, blows were struck and people were (not seriously) injured, you may think you will face a misdemeanor with an accompanying fine and restitution to the establishment. You may be right.

But you also may be wrong because it's not difficult for a simple misdemeanor assault charge to escalate to a more serious misdemeanor charge or even to the level of a felony.

If you're a brawler, you want to arm yourself with knowledge of how to use your fists. You should also arm yourself with a lawyer who has knowledge of the legal system and can help you from making a bad situation worse.

An example in Lincoln

An Applebees restaurant provides an example.

According to police, nearly a dozen people were dining at the establishment in January 2018 when one group of four men began arguing with a nearby group of men and women. Witnesses couldn't determine what the argument was about, police said.

One thing led to another, a bar trivia machine was thrown, a woman holding a baby began to throw punches and finally a car full of people arrived to help one of the sides in the fight.

All those involved in the melee left the scene before police arrived.

Apparently, no one was seriously injured and no weapons were used, but the situation could have gotten out of hand quickly and the brawlers could have faced more serious charges.

Misdemeanor assault in Nebraska

In Nebraska, there are two conditions qualifications for misdemeanor assault in the third degree: intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing bodily harm to another person, or threatening another in a menacing manner.

This means that accidentally hurting someone, or acting in a way that results in injury without previously thinking of the repercussions of the act, would be exempt. Throwing a punch, however, would fall into this category.

There is a difference between bodily harm and serious bodily harm. Bodily harm is a bruise or scrape. Serious bodily harm is a knife wound or a bludgeoning that results in disfigurement or a substantial risk of death.

An assault on an unsuspecting person or someone who cannot or will not fight back is a Class I misdemeanor. A fight between willing participants - like a bar brawl - is a less serious Class II misdemeanor. A Class I misdemeanor is punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. A Class II misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail

Assault on a police officer, an assault with a deadly weapon, and an assault that results in serious bodily harm can result in felony charges.

An assault on a police officer with a bodily fluid is a Class I misdemeanor.

An assault that is caused by a person's race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age or disability is a hate crime and causes an automatic rise in the punishment level, as does an assault against a pregnant woman. That means a Class I misdemeanor automatically becomes a Class IV felony.

A good lawyer can help you navigate these charges. A lawyer can help determine restitution, plea arrangements, probation and record expungement.

The first thing you should do after a bar-room brawl is get a good lawyer.

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  • Nebraska State Bar Association
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