After being bumped into, spilled on, or harassed by the belligerent patrons at any of your favorite local dives, the question “can you get arrested for a bar fight?” may have crossed your mind. The short answer is yes. No matter who was in the right or wrong, you can get arrested for involvement in a bar fight. Even in self-defense, even if they started it, and under certain circumstances — even if you didn’t hit anyone.

If you or a loved one is involved in a bar fight, do not talk to the police. No one is in the right state of mind to give statements after a fight. With the booze and adrenaline pumping, you may make a self-incriminating statement that could be used against you later. Regardless, you’re going to need a damn good lawyer. Mark Thiessen from Thiessen Law Firm  is not afraid to go to trial to defend your rights, and he is here to tell you a thing or two about how to handle a charge for bar fighting in Houston.

What charges can you get for fighting?

It can be difficult to keep the facts straight in the hazy aftermath of a brawl. This goes for everyone involved, including your would-be accusers. It is very possible to get involved with something that doesn’t have anything to do with you, or for misunderstandings to escalate and ruin someone’s life. Here’s the kind of legal consequences you can expect for getting involved in a bar fight:

  • You can land assault charges for being in a bar fight. This is actually the most likely outcome
    • There are two basic categories into which assault charges fall: simple assault and aggravated assault.
  • You could be hit with a civil lawsuit or personal injury claim.

Types of assault charges in Texas

So, what is aggravated assault vs. assault vs. simple assault?


In most states, it is considered assault when a person is threatened with serious bodily injury, and it is considered battery upon sustainment of said injuries due to serious physical contact. They are intentionally distinct torts, structured in a way that allows defendants to seek restitution on two counts. 

The difference between assault and battery in Texas is that what’s considered battery in other states is charged as a higher level of assault in the Lone Star State. Assault charges in Texas are structured with varying levels of severity, so although you often only have to contend with one charge, the charges themselves are a bit more complicated.

Simple Assault

What is simple assault? Simple assault occurs when someone is threatened but does not experience lasting bodily harm. If you threaten to hurt someone or make them feel as if they are in immediate danger, you can be charged with simple assault without laying a hand on anyone.

Aggravated Assault 

Aggravated assault in Texas occurs when someone sustains serious physical injuries caused intentionally or recklessly by another party. Other aggravating factors include:

  • Brandishing or using a deadly weapon while threatening or assaulting someone will get your charge upgraded to assault with a deadly weapon. Deadly weapons are not limited to manufactured weapons and can include something like picking up a barstool during a fight.
  • Assault against a protected class (e.g., the disabled or the elderly)
  • Assault with intent to commit another crime (robbery or sexual assault)

Penalties for assault in Texas

Wondering what bar fight jail time is going to look like? It depends on the severity of the assault.

  • Threatening a person with bodily harm or initiating offensive or provocative physical contact is a Class C misdemeanor.
  • Causing bodily harm with no aggravating factors is a Class A misdemeanor.
  • Initiating unwanted physical contact, causing bodily harm, or threatening to do so against a government official or a public servant is a 3rd degree felony, carrying up to 10 years in prison.
  • Initiating unwanted physical contact, causing bodily harm, or threatening to do so against a family member or partner is a 2nd degree felony, carrying up to 20 years in prison. Any assault charge is upgraded to a 2nd degree felony if you have prior offenses. 
  • Committing aggravated assault against a police officer, security guard, emergency worker, public official, or witness is a 1st degree felony, that could mean life in prison. 

The aftermath of a bar fight could mean anything from a Class C misdemeanor to a 1st degree felony. Police officers are often stationed at bars to intervene if a fight breaks out. If you touch one, even by accident, it could put you away for a long time. 

How to beat an assault charge in Texas 

The first course of action in defense against an assault charge in Texas would be to prove that the assault either did not happen or that you did not commit the assault. Things can get confusing in bar brawls, and there is a chance that you were swept up into something that had nothing to do with you.

Now, if there is demonstrable evidence that you did commit assault, it isn’t quite the end of the road. An affirmative defense, which is a defense that involves you admitting to the action, but suggesting that there was a legal reason for it, would then be a possibility. In the case of a bar brawl, it could be likely that you were trying to prevent a belligerent patron from causing harm to you or someone else in the bar. Proving that you used the minimum amount of force possible to protect yourself or others is another stipulation of an affirmative defense.

Defense against assault charges is tricky, as the jury is often predisposed to siding against you. You need someone who isn’t afraid to aggressively fight on your behalf. Hire one of the most knowledgeable assault lawyers Houston has to offer to give yourself the highest chance at securing a Not Guilty verdict. 

You need a top assault attorney in Houston. You need to call Thiessen Law Firm today

Can you get arrested for a bar fight? Yes. It happens all the time and it usually comes hand in hand with a serious assault charge. If you get swept up in a situation that you didn’t start, don’t assume that the police or the prosecution will know what really happened. Don’t gamble with your freedom, and call Mark Thiessen to your defense. Mark is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, and his expert, trial-tested defense strategies can put you on the path to winning your case.

If you or a loved one has been in a bar fight or was involved in an assault case, call us now at 713-864-9000 or request a free consultation online.

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Mark Thiessen is an aggressive trial lawyer best known for his devotion to justice for his clients and high rank as a DWI Super Lawyer in Texas.