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How Does The Indiana Mutual Combat Law in Indiana Affect Assault Charges?

How Does The Indiana Mutual Combat Law in Indiana Affect Assault Charges?

Jared-Michel-Thomas

Most people equate assault with a violent, intentional attack on another human being, not realizing that there are numerous details and subtleties when it comes to the applicable criminal laws. In Indiana, there are two sources of confusion about the assault.

For one, there is no state statute that defines the offense. Second, assault is NOT the same as battery even though many people use the terms interchangeably. When your basis for understanding assault charges involves this type of misinformation, it is understandable that you might feel overwhelmed after being arrested.

Fortunately, you can gain an advantage in any criminal case when you retain experienced legal representation. With an Evansville assault and battery defense attorney to advocate on your behalf, you level the playing field versus the prosecutor who aims to seal your conviction.

There are multiple defenses and strategies for fighting the allegations. One, in particular, might support your interests:

  • The Indiana mutual combat law.
  • The underlying concepts are very specific, but the basic idea is that there is no crime when two individuals consent to an altercation.

Some additional details may help you understand the mutual combat law and how it affects assault charges.

Overview of Assault and Battery Laws in Indiana

To clarify these different criminal offenses, note the following points under Indiana’s laws on offenses against the person:

  • Battery is an unwanted, offensive, or harmful touching of another person without his or her consent.
  • Assault is the attempt or threat to commit battery, which may not actually include coming into contact with the victim. It is the act of threatening or attempting, along with the present ability to follow through, that constitutes assault.

Therefore, you can see how it is possible to be charged with both crimes if you make good on an attempt or threat to touch the victim in an offensive way. You could also be arrested for one crime and not the other. If you never touch the alleged victim in connection with threats, there may be assault but no battery. Touching another person in the absence of threats would not rise to the level of assault, but you might face battery charges.

It is the consent aspect of Indiana’s mutual combat law that may impact assault and battery charges, and there are multiple ways you can use the concepts to your advantage. Some examples may illustrate how the notion of mutual combat arises:

  • Bouts involving recreational boxing, mixed martial arts, or ultimate fighting.
  • An altercation that results from a sudden provocation or “heat of the moment” quarrel, often a basic bar fight.
  • In a historical context, a duel or other scenario involves a mutual intention or agreement to fight.

Mutual Combat Impacts the Prosecutor’s Burden

In any criminal case, the prosecution bears the burden of proving that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. As a result, the government will go first in presenting its evidence, known as the case-in-chief. The prosecutor is required to establish the burden of proof with respect to each element for assault and battery charges, so the concept of mutual combat can be problematic.

  • For battery, there must be evidence that the physical contact was not consensual. No matter how offensive or harmful it might be, mutual combatants consent to the touching.
  • Because the charges center on the attempt or threat to commit battery, the essential elements of battery also touch upon the assault. However, if there can be no battery because due to consent by mutual combatants, the prosecutor may not be able to prove assault either.

Mutual Combat as a Defense Strategy

Your initial strategy will be on ways to prevent the prosecution from meeting its evidentiary burden, but it will be your turn to put on defense once the government rests. Keep in mind that your burden is lower when it comes to defenses as compared to the state.

You must prove a defense by a preponderance of the evidence – i.e., your evidence is greater than 50 percent likely to be true. Mutual combat may act as a defense to charges involving assault, battery, or both. Consider the following:

  • You will need to introduce evidence regarding consent and how the mutual combatant agreed to the physical altercation.
  • Mutual combat may incorporate self-defense. Under Indiana law, a person is justified in using reasonable force against an assailant to protect against an imminent attack.

Even if you cannot establish a complete defense or get the charges dismissed, evidence of mutual combat may give you some leverage in other areas. A prosecutor might prefer to work out a plea bargain rather than risk a loss when the state’s case is weak.

You might benefit from lenient sentencing or having assault charges reduced, possibly taking your case from a felony to a misdemeanor. A plea agreement would work to your advantage considering the potential penalties for a conviction:

  • Indiana’s law on assault refers to the use of intimidation or threats, which is a Class A Misdemeanor punishable by up to one-year imprisonment and a $5,000 maximum fine.
  • When the misconduct is directed at certain individuals or involves the use of a deadly weapon, assault may be charged as a Level 6 Felony. A conviction could mean up to 2 ½ years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • Battery is also a Class A Misdemeanor, though it is a Level 6 Felony if the offensive contact resulted in injury.

An Evansville Assault and Battery Defense Attorney Can Provide Additional Details

This overview on assault charges and the Indiana mutual combat law is helpful, but it is no substitute for the experience, in-depth legal knowledge, and trial advocacy skills of a criminal defense lawyer. At Thomas Law, our team is dedicated to fighting for the rights of clients and obtaining a favorable outcome.

For more information, please call 812-492-1900 or go online to reach our Evansville, IN office. You can set up a free consultation with one of our Evansville criminal defense lawyers to learn more about your situation and get started on a legal strategy for beating assault charges.

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