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Does North Carolina recognize mutual combat?

On Behalf of | Sep 14, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

Fights happen. Most of the time, these fights are simply verbal, but other times, these fights escalate to fists. As a result, you may end up facing assault charges. If this is you, then you may likely wonder if you can claim self-defense or mutual combat to avoid fines and jail time.

What is mutual combat?

As used here, the term, mutual combat, is a legal term for the agreement between two people to voluntarily fight each other. Mutual combat has a long history, and it was a popular and legal way to resolve disputes in the 18th and 19th centuries. Over the decades, it has fallen out of legal favor.

In states where mutual combat is recognized, neither party will face legal consequences that stem from that mutual combat. In most states, however, it is not recognized, which means that both parties could face assault charges, even if both fighters consented to the fight.

Does North Carolina recognize mutual combat?

No. Mutual combat is not recognized in our state’s laws. However, self defense is allowed. This means that you can use reasonable and proportional force to defend yourself and others in the state.

What about self-defense?

In our state, self-defense is a legal defense against assault charges. However, you must meet specific conditions. First, you cannot have started the confrontation. Second, your physical defense must be done under the reasonable belief that you were in imminent danger of harm, and the force you use must be proportional to the feared imminent harm. Finally, you must have tried to retreat or avoid the imminent harm, unless it occurred at your home.

Does it apply to fights?

Unfortunately, if you both agreed to a fight in North Carolina, the self-defense claim would likely not work. This is because that agreement violates the first condition as you invited the conflict.

If the fight was part of a licensed or sanctioned sporting match, like a boxing or martial arts match, then assault charges should not be filed.

Nonetheless, while claiming mutual combat can hurt you and destroy a self-defense claim, it can be helpful in some situations. For example, if both parties admit to it, it can prove there was no malicious intent. If the other party only suffered minor injuries or no injuries at all, it could also show you only used reasonable force.

But, you should only discuss these legal strategies with your attorney, not the police. Ask for a lawyer immediately.