What to Expect when Charged with a Bar Fight at the Shore
Arrested for a bar fight at the Jersey Shore? DJAIS? Bar Anticipation? Osprey? Donovan’s? If so, you are not alone. Bar fights have been around forever, at the Jersey Shore and New Jersey statewide. Anytime you have free flowing alcohol it is only a matter of time until someone gets out of hand. These are often started over what otherwise would innocuous incidents like spilling of a drink or bumping into another. As one would imagine, bar fights are not something the prosecution takes kindly too. Especially due to the inherent danger that these typically put innocent strangers in. Bar fights can quickly turn into nightmare situations, especially if someone is seriously hurt as a result. Some of the most common charges we see being issued in conjunction with a bar fight are: simple assault, aggravated assault, assault with a deadly weapon, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, unlawful possession of a weapon, resisting arrest, obstruction and eluding. These are all very serious indictable charges and should not be underestimated. A night out on the town could very easily lead to a decade plus in a New Jersey State Prison.
How Serious is a Bar Fight? Can I go to Jail?
Bar fights are an all to common occurrence at the Jersey Shore. As such, these tend to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Anyone arrested for fighting at the Jersey Shore, whether it be in Belmar, Manasquan, Asbury Park, Red Bank, Sea Bright or elsewhere will almost certainly see there charges being issued on a Complaint-Warrant. That means that the individual will be taken from the local police department and will spend at least 24-48 hours in the County Jail before they see a judge for their Central Judicial Processing Hearing. At that hearing, the prosecution will have to make a decision whether they will agree to release the individual on bail or whether they will be filing for Detention. If they file for detention, a formal hearing must be conducted within a week typically and it will then be up to the Judge to determine if they will agree to release the individual. Obviously the severity of the offense and the underlying allegations will play a major role in determining whether or not detention will be filed for and the chances of obtaining bail if one is filed.
What are Common Criminal Charges Associated with Bar Fights in NJ
Things can quickly escalate from bad to worse when it comes to a bar fight. Some of the more common lower level bar fight charges that we see being issued at the Jersey Shore include:
All of these offenses are considered disorderly or petty disorderly persons offenses. These are more common known as misdemeanors. These offenses will typically not result in the individual being charged on a Complaint-Warrant but a Complaint-Summons. Only a Complaint-Summons the individual will be released from the local police department on a notice to appear at a future date in the local municipal court. For example, if an individual is involved in a bar fight at Bar Anticipation in Belmar and they are ultimately charged with disorderly conduct and simple assault, they will be taken to the Belmar Police Station, processed on the Complaint-Summons and released on a notice to appear at a future date in the Belmar Municipal Court.
When things truly escalate from bad to worse and an individual is charged with more serious indictable offenses as a result of a bar fight they could be facing the following charges:
- Aggravated Assault;
- Assault with a Deadly Weapon;
- Unlawful Possession of a Weapon;
- Possession of a Weapon for Unlawful Purpose;
- Resisting Arrest;
These are all felony offenses in New Jersey and will almost certainly result in the charges being pend out on what is known as a Complaint-Warrant. That means that the individual will taken from the local police department to the County Jail where they were await their Central Judicial Processing Hearing. These are obviously very serious charges and should not be underestimated or taken lightly. The potential for a lengthy prison sentence if not handled properly.
How Come I was Charged with Disorderly Conduct for a Fight?
When a fight is relatively minor and amounts to more of a shouting argument then true physical altercation, the individual could be charged with either disorderly conduct or harassment. Disorderly conduct is more of a catchall charge that tends to cover “improper behavior”. So if the fight amounted to more of a verbal argument as opposed to punches being thrown, then it is common to see the individual being charged with disorderly conduct. If the fight involved some physical force, like a shove, a push or a slap, it is more common to see the individual being charged with harassment, as the offense of harassment has an “offensive touching” component to it. Therefore, that type of conduct is more appropriately covered under harassment as opposed to simple assault. Both disorderly conduct and harassment are considered petty disorderly persons offenses and will be litigated in the local municipal court.
How Come I was Charged with Assault if I didn’t Start the Fight?
Typically speaking, unless there are multiple witnesses or cameras that captured the fight, bar fights are hard to determine who the initiator was at the time of charging. As a result, both individuals involved tend to be charged and the police will defer to the Courts to determine whether self-defense is applicable. Self-defense is an affirmative defense in New Jersey and if it applies, it could completely exonerate the individual. As, if it is determined that it was a mutual fight, the individuals could both be charged with simple assault, mutual combat, which is a subsection of the simple assault statute in New Jersey. “Mutual Combat” is considered a petty disorderly persons offense and will be litigated in the local Municipal Court.
What if a Bottle was Used During the Fight?
One common “weapon” that we see being alleged to have been used during a bar fight is a bottle. Although a bottle at first glance does not appear to be a weapon, if it was used in an unlawful manner during the fight, bottle will be considered an illegal weapon and more serious charges will follow. Regardless of whether the individual actually caused injury as a result of the use of the bottle, they will se their potential charges increase to assault with a deadly weapon, a fourth degree crime; possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose, a third degree crime; unlawful possession of a weapon, a third degree crime and aggravated assault, a third degree crime. This is just a classic example of how things can quickly go from bad to worse. These types of allegation with almost certainly result in the individual being taken to the County Jail and they will remain there till their detention hearing can be conducted. Not to mention, the chances of being sentenced to a lengthy State Prison term drastically increase.
What is the Potential Sentences for a Bar Fight at the Jersey Shore?
The potential sentences can really vary when it comes to a bar fight. The charges in and of themselves as well as the alleged victim’s injuries will play a major role in the individual’s potential exposure. Here is a quick breakdown of potential sentences based on the degree of the charge:
- Disorderly Persons Offense:
6 Months in Jail / $1,000 Fine
- 4th Degree Indictable Offense:
18 Months in Prison / $10,000 Fine
- 3rd Degree Indictable Offense:
3 to 5 Years in Prison / $15,000 Fine
- 2nd Degree Indictable Offense:
5 to 10 Years in Prison / $150,000 Fine
- 1St Degree Indictable Offense:
10 to 20 Years in Prison / $200,000 Fine
Was the Bar Fight with a Significant Other?
If the bar fight involved a significant other or even a roommate for that matter, the incident could be classified as domestic violence. Although this does not have a major effect on the criminal charges in and of themselves, it does have other implications. If the alleged victim in the fight seeks out and obtains a temporary restraining order, then the defendant would have to defend themselves in Family Court as well. Even though both cases are presumable based on the same set of facts, these are two different types of proceedings, both having significant consequences. For more information on restraining orders at the Jersey Shore, please click the link.
Talk to Lawyers who Defend those Charged with Bar Fights in Belmar
As you tell from reading above, bar fights are not something to underestimate. The potential charges that can derive from a bar fight can be life changing. The exposure one faces if convicted can be absolutely devastating. If you or a loved one are facing charges stemming from a bar fight at the Jersey Shore, in towns like Belmar, Manasquan, Asbury Park, Bradley Beach, Neptune Township, Sea Bright, Atlantic Highlands or elsewhere we can help. If you would like so set up a free initial consultation today, please call our office at 732.858.6959. One of our attorneys would be glad to sit down and go over all your options. Do not let an alcohol fueled temporary loss of indiscretion affect your future.