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When a pub crawl turns into a pub brawl

You and your buddies love a good pub crawl. It's a tradition. Ever since college, you and your boys get together a couple times a year for a night of earnest drinking. You always get wasted, and you always end up with hilarious stories to last you until the next time.

But last weekend, things didn't go quite according to plan. A few whiskies in, a stranger made a rude comment to you. You made a snide remark back. Things escalated quickly, and pretty soon you found yourself in a full-on fist fight with the guy. You both willingly entered into the fight--which in legal terms is called "mutual combat"--so you don't have to worry about any legal ramifications, right? Wrong.

Legal consequences

Under Pennsylvania law, getting into a fight by mutual consent can land you with a third degree misdemeanor charge of simple assault. If convicted, you could have to spend up to a year in prison and pay as much as $2,000 in fines.

In addition, having any criminal charge on your record--even if you're not convicted--can be extremely damaging to your future. It can impact your ability to land a job, secure a loan or rent an apartment.

What you can do

The good news is that Pennsylvania recently made a change to its law, giving individuals with a record of mutual combat simple assault the opportunity to clear that offense from their record. However, they must wait for a period of seven years before doing so, and certain other restrictions apply.

If you're facing a simple assault charge, it's important to have an experienced attorney evaluate your case to determine the strongest possible defense for you. They can also assess whether it's possible to get your charges reduced--to a disorderly conduct offense--or get your charges dismissed altogether.

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