Can I Claim Self-Defense in a Bar Fight?

Self defense in a bar fight.

Can I Claim Self-Defense in a Bar Fight?

Getting into a bar fight can result in serious criminal charges if police are called to the scene to handle matters. Those involves in a bar fight can be charged with a variety of crimes, with the most common including:

  • Assault
  • Aggravated assault
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Criminal damage
  • Failure to Comply

However, with inhibitions loose as a result of excessive drinking, bar fights can result in a “blame game” regarding who was or wasn’t the victim of the crime as charged.

Many individuals charged with a criminal offense stemming from a bar fight want to claim self-defense as a means to avoid a conviction.

What Constitutes Self-Defense?

In order to claim self-defense (or defense of others), a person’s actions must be both reasonable within the circumstances and proportionate based on the threat received.

According to A.R.S. 13-404, a person is justified in threatening or using physical force against another when, and to the extent a reasonable person would believe, that physical force is immediately necessary to protect himself against the other’s use or attempted use of unlawful physical force.

What Does Not Constitute Self-Defense?

According to the same statute, threat or physical force cannot be used against another person:

  • In response to a verbal provocation alone.
  • To resist arrest, unless the police officer uses an amount of force exceeds that which is allowed by law.
  • If they provoked the other person’s use or attempted use of physical force.

This final prong is only applicable if the person did not withdraw or attempt to withdraw from the encounter or if the other person continued to use physical force against them despite them having withdrawn.

Additionally, actions which are unreasonable or disproportionate to the initial physical force used are not considered self-defense. As an example, responding to being bumped into by pulling out a gun and threatening to shoot is an example of a disproportionate response.

How to Prove Self-Defense During a Bar Fight

In order to prove a person was acting out of self-defense during a bar fight, the defendant will need to be able to show that they used only reasonable force against the other person. Additional factors, such as showing that they attempted to walk away, or that the other person was persistent in using force anyway, are helpful. A bar’s security cameras can be helpful in proving self-defense.



With offices in Lake Havasu City and Scottsdale, our firm serves the entire state of Arizona, with a particular focus on criminal defense, family law, and juvenile cases.

Our goal is for the best outcome for your criminal case, which can include:

  • charges that are reduced or dropped.
  • top experts reviewing your case.
  • aggressive negotiations with the prosecution for plea bargains.
  • fines or probation in lieu of jail time.

At Rideout Law Group, our attorneys are able to expertly examine the evidence in your case to provide a strong strategy for argument that leads to an outcome that is most favorable to you. We have experience in all types of criminal cases for both adults and juveniles, with positive outcomes both in plea negotiations as well as jury trial settings.

Call us today for a free consultation at 480-584-3328.

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