A few decades ago, it seemed that every kid was involved in a fist fight in school at one point or another, but as schools clamped down on bullying and violence though, these incidents became more and more rare. And now some students and their parents find themselves surprised to end up talking to police after they’ve been caught fighting in school. When this happens, it’s important to contact a juvenile lawyer as soon as possible.
Can Teens Really be Arrested for Fighting?
Yes and it happens more than you probably imagine. That being said, most schools don’t just call the police as soon as two kids start shoving one another. In most cases, police are only involved in the fight was particularly violent, if the situation may have involved a hate crime, when it was a gang crime, if one of the people involved never fought back against their attacker(s), if a teacher was involved, or if other circumstances apply to make the matter more serious than a standard scuffle.
It’s important to recognize that whether or not the incident involves minors, mutual combat is not legal in California. If both people agree the fight was mutual though, prosecutors are generally less likely to file charges, particularly in cases where no injuries occurred, that being said, given that schools don’t typically call the police over minor, mutual scuffles, this is not going to apply in most situations involving fights at school.
If the person charged with these crimes is over 18, they will be charged as an adult, but if the incident took place at any point before their 18th birthday, they will be charged as a juvenile. Those who go through the juvenile court system will face the same charges as adults and the same penalties, but the focus of juvenile courts and juvenile detention facilities is rehabilitation, not punishment.
What Are the Most Common Charges for Fighting?
Assault and battery are the most common charges associated with fist fights. Assault occurs when someone attempts to use violence against another person. When someone successfully uses violence against someone battery has occurred. Many people charged with fighting face both charges, assault for things such as shoves or missed punches and battery for actually using violence against the other person. Aggravated charges may occur if the victim suffered great bodily injury or if the attacker used a weapon likely to result in great bodily injury, even if they never hit the victim with the weapon.
Simple battery and assault are both misdemeanors that carry a sentence of no more than six months behind bars. Aggravated charges can result in much lengthier sentences based on the specific circumstances.
What Other Charges Can Students Involved in a Fight Face
If the incident was a result of gang activities, then gang charges may be filed. Similarly, if one student attacked another based on that person’s race, disability, gender, religion or other protected category, the attacker could face hate crime charges. Both of these charges are technically enhancements that will result in misdemeanor charges being sentenced at a felony level. If the charge was already a felony, the sentence may be increased by as much as three years.
Some students have actually been charged with starting a riot when they get multiple students involved in a violent altercation on school grounds. The person charged with the crime does not actually have to be involved in the riot, but just responsible for starting it. This charge is punishable by up to 1 year in jail, or if the person convicted is a juvenile, then a juvenile custody facility.
If you are a middle schooler or high school student (or the parent or legal guardian of one) who has been accused of assault, battery or other crime after fighting in school, please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation with Peter M. Liss.