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The legal implications of a frat house fight

It happens at almost every college party at least once. It's late. Everyone's been drinking heavily, and inhibitions are slow. Suddenly, someone erupts into anger over a perceived offense by another person. They start to argue, and before you know it, they're rolling around on the ground in a full-on fight.

Such a scene may not seem uncommon in certain settings--which can lead to the false impression that such behavior is okay--even legal. However, you should know that if you get into a fight with someone else--even if you both "started it,"--there can be serious legal repercussions.

When two people willingly enter into a fight with each other, this is known as "mutual combat." Under Pennsylvania law, mutual combat is a form of simple assault--which is a third-degree misdemeanor. If you're convicted of this crime, you could face up to a year behind bars and up to $2,000 in fines.

Maybe you think your chances of going to jail over a drunken frat party brawl are slim. But even if you're not convicted, just being arrested for simple assault will put this offense on your permanent criminal record. Having a criminal record can hamper your ability to get into grad school, land a job or rent an apartment.

Fortunately, Pennsylvania recently amended the law to make simple assault an expungable offense. This means that if you have a simple assault charge on your criminal record, you can get it permanently removed. However, you must wait at least seven years before you can petition for expungement.

Even something as commonplace as a drunken bar fight can land you in a world of trouble--which can last for years. Before you attempt to fight a simple assault charge on your own, consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to see about getting the charge reduced or dismissed.

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