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reenkam
06-09-2007, 12:57 AM
Let's say there was a minor fight and Guy A punched Guy B, knocking him back so he hit his head on something hard like the floor, a chair, whatever. Guy B is rushed to the hospital and Guy A runs and goes missing for a day or two. That's the set up. I need help with the following 2 scenerios:

Let's say that Guy B dies. What could Guy A be charged with if he returned and turned himself in?
What if Guy B ends up with some kind of damage? First of all, what kinds could he have and how severe are they? And then, what could Guy A be charged with?BTW, both people are minors and it happened at a school. I don't know if this would matter or not...

So any help/advice/ideas anyone has about this would be great. Thanks!

Jedi Dad
06-09-2007, 02:19 AM
What you describe would most likely be manslaughter in most states.

Unless the survivor could prove they were defending themselves from an attack, then it could be self defense, which many states have as an automatic defense for manslaughter.

When it comes to mutual fights, the loser goes to the hospital, the winner goes to jail.

Silver King
06-09-2007, 02:51 AM
Let's say that Guy B dies. What could Guy A be charged with if he returned and turned himself in?As Jedi mentioned, if it's a fist fight and the death is accidental, in many cases, the charges would involve Manslaughter.



2. What if Guy B ends up with some kind of damage? First of all, what kinds could he have and how severe are they? And then, what could Guy A be charged with?

The charges then might include Battery, either simple or aggravated, depending upon the extent of damages the victim suffers.

Before charges are brought, keep in mind mitigating circumstances, such as who started the fight. Also, was a weapon used? Was the defendant protecting himself from harm (self defense)? Were there any witnesses? And so on...

Del
06-09-2007, 03:10 AM
Manslaughter would probably be the charge regarding a death. Without a witness to testify that it was self defense he would be screwed.

The second charge could be Assault and Battery, Aggravated Assault and Battery, or assault with intent to do bodily harm. Assault is the act of aggression, Battery is the physical contact, so that last charge really means no physical harm had resulted but he could still be charged that way. It could indicate malice where the other charges don't. It is something for you to look up, in any case.

Schools are quite eager to penalize someone for any issue at school. The basic surface evidence caries a lot of weight. There is no real investigation.

My son had an incident similar to your second description where he kicked a boy in the head and the boy was taken to the emergency room. My son was suspended.

After I heard my sons version of what happened I demanded a meeting with the principal, the boy and his parents.

My son was automatically assumed guilty because of a reputation he had for fighting. He had been suspended before.

At the meeting not only did the injured boy confess that the kick had been accidental but that he had been aggravating my son by pushing on his feet (which were propped up during a movie). The injured boy was made to apologize to my son.

But that wasn't all. The boy also confessed that my son had been set up in the other fights. There were four boys that would pick on him, knowing quite well how to push my sons buttons. They would get him riled up and then arrange for a teacher to see his response. The teachers only ever saw My son fight back and the "three witnesses" would of course swear that none of them had done anything to invite the fight. This had been going on for a couple years. I never believed my son to be the aggressor but there was nothing I could do. Finally, all alone and faced with me, my wife, the principal and his own mother, the kid broke down and, with tears in his eyes, confessed that everything had been a set up.

Silver King
06-09-2007, 03:44 AM
The second charge could be Assault and Battery, Aggravated Assault and Battery, or assault with intent to do bodily harm. Assault is the act of aggression, Battery is the physical contact, so that last charge really means no physical harm had resulted but he could still be charged that way. It could indicate malice where the other charges don't. It is something for you to look up, in any case...
Make sure you take heed to the last sentence in the quote above. Do some research. Where the defendant lives will have an impact on what the charges are called. For example, where I live, there is no such crime known as, "Assault and Battery." Great care has been taken to distinguish between the two offences. It's either one or the other, with degrees of severity included (first, second and third).

ideagirl
06-09-2007, 03:57 AM
Without a witness to testify that it was self defense he would be screwed.

Self defense doesn't require a witness. Obviously a witness helps, but it's not crucial. Self defense is very different than the situations you describe with your son (him being set up by classmates etc.). The differences are that, for one thing, you're talking about administrative punishment by the school, which is very different than the legal system; and also, generally provocation is not a legal defense. There are some exceptions to that, i.e. situations where provocation could be a defense to a charge of battery, but generally speaking, it's only when the provication rises to totally egregious horrifying levels (for example, if A molested B's child and then bragged about it in front of B, B could be excused for going berserk--whatever he does to A would probably get the lowest possible charges, e.g. "disturbing the peace" instead of "assault"). Provocation may also mitigate the sentence (so B's sentence would be at the lowest end of the scale).

But self defense IS a legal defense; it doesn't mitigate the sentence, it gets you totally acquitted of the crime. Though the exact details vary depending on state law, in general, to show that you were acting in self defense, you just need to describe a situation in which a reasonable person would have feared bodily harm (if you just hit your assailant), or serious bodily harm (if what you did was maim or kill your assailant). If the jury believes that (1) the situation was such that your fear was reasonable, and (2) what you did was more or less in proportion to the kind of harm you feared*, you win; you're "not guilty." What it takes to make the jury believe that depends on the situation. It's possible that your testimony alone will make them believe you. In most if not all states, you're also allowed to introduce evidence such as the person's past arrests/convictions or reputation for violence, or the fact that someone had recently told you that person was coming after you.

* (Note that under every state law I've ever heard of, killing the assailant is "in proportion" when the harm you feared was rape or a severe beating; the logic there is that if someone overpowers you enough to rape or severely beat you, they could easily kill you in the process--purposely or accidentally--and so you're justified in killing them to prevent the rape or beating. Many state laws also specifically name other crimes, like kidnapping or carjacking, as crimes for which you're allowed to kill in self defense. That doesn't mean you can't kill a carjacker in self defense in states that DON'T have those laws; a jury could still find you not guilty. It just means that in states that DO have those laws, it is legally impossible for the jury to find that killing the carjacker was out of proportion to the harm you feared--the state law takes that discretion away from the jury.)

ideagirl
06-09-2007, 04:09 AM
As Jedi mentioned, if it's a fist fight and the death is accidental, in many cases, the charges would involve Manslaughter. The charges then might include Battery, either simple or aggravated, depending upon the extent of damages the victim suffers.

Usually the simple vs. aggravated distinction also depends on whether it was just a fist or some object was used (a knife, a pen, a chair, whatever).

As for charges in general--manslaughter, battery or whatever--if the DA is convinced that the death or injury was inflicted in self defense, the DA won't bring charges. Whether to charge somebody at all is up to the DA, and since self defense is an absolute defense (i.e. if what you did was in self defense and was in proportion to the harm you feared, then you didn't commit a crime), the DA isn't going to bring the case because hurting or killing someone in self defense is not a crime. In those circumstances, there is no crime for the DA to charge the person with.

Even if the DA isn't totally convinced, as long as he or she thinks there's a really good case for self defense, he or she may not pursue the case or may not even bring charges, because all it takes is one juror agreeing with the defendant that the injuries were inflicted in self defense. You need a unanimous jury to convict someone of a crime; if one juror won't do it, then the state has spent tens of thousands of dollars on a total waste of time of a trial. In this sort of situation, the DA might bring charges just as a bargaining chip, in hopes of getting the defendant to agree to a plea bargain. That's how it works for adults, anyway. Not sure what differences there may be for juveniles.

Oh, on a pedantic side note, I just want to point out that legally speaking self defense is not a "mitigating circumstance." It doesn't mitigate the crime of hurting or killing someone; that is, it doesn't bring the charges down from, say, murder to manslaughter. Since hurting or killing someone in self defense is not a crime, rather than mitigating, what it does is bring the charges down to ZERO, no charges at all (if the DA is convinced it was self defense) or no conviction at all (if the DA brings charges but the jury is convinced it was self defense). The defendant goes scot free, with no criminal record whatsoever.

Del
06-09-2007, 05:07 AM
Curios...I was watching City By the Sea last night and wondered about a comment that Robert Deniro's character said; "You could plead self defense...maybe only get six years."

Now I know anything can happen in a courtroom but this sounded odd to me. Is it possible that self defense could still get you time?

The State was New York.

ideagirl
06-09-2007, 05:33 AM
Curios...I was watching City By the Sea last night and wondered about a comment that Robert Deniro's character said; "You could plead self defense...maybe only get six years." Now I know anything can happen in a courtroom but this sounded odd to me. Is it possible that self defense could still get you time? The State was New York.

I'm not familiar with NY law or with that movie, but unless NY is kinda wacky compared to everyone else, I see three possibilities:
(1) the De Niro character was not any kind of legal expert and was just offering advice "outta his ass," for lack of a better word--i.e. he was just saying something the average Joe might think is true, even though it's actually not; or
(2) the screenwriter(s) didn't know what they were talking about; or
(3) the circumstances were such that the person was acting in self defense but they overreacted, using force out of proportion to the injury they feared. In that case, what they did WAS a crime, because to be legal, self defense has to be reasonable (i.e. pretty much in proportion) under the circumstances. You can kill someone who's trying to rape you, but you can't kill someone who's trying to slap you; with the slapper, you can maybe grab their hands or punch them once or something, but you can't do something a whole lot worse than what you think they'll do to you.

But in that case, where a person did overreact but was doing so in self defense, the self defense argument goes to motive or state of mind, and thus mitigates the crime and the sentence. For example, if you stab someone in self defense when you had no reason to think they would do anything more than punch you once or twice, and they die from that one stab wound, then, even though killing them is a crime, in that situation it does not constitute first-degree murder. It might not even be murder at all, but just some kind of manslaughter (I can't say for sure because every state's law varies and I don't know what the circumstances of the killing were).

To clarify what I mean, note that all crimes have what's called "elements." Here's a simplistic example: let's say that in state X, the elements of first degree murder are (a) purposely killing someone with (b) malice aforethought (i.e. you planned the killing in advance in cold blood). Element (b) is the one that goes to the perpetrator's motive and/or state of mind. So if you were in state X and you purposely killed someone, but not with malice aforethought, just in the heat of the moment, what you did is not first-degree murder because you didn't have the requisite "malice aforethought" state of mind. With the state of mind you DID have, maybe under the laws of state X, what you did would add up to second-degree murder (a.k.a. "murder 2"). (All of these distinctions--the exact elements that add up to murder 1, 2, 3, or manslaughter 1, 2, etc.--vary from one state to another). So, maybe in that movie, what the De Niro character was saying basically meant, "if the jury buys the self defense argument, then they can't find you guilty of murder 1 or 2 because you didn't have the necessary motive/state of mind to be guilty of murder 1 or 2. With the 'self defense' state of mind, the most they could find you guilty of is manslaughter 1, and the punishment for that is only 6 years."

benbradley
06-09-2007, 05:56 AM
Isn't there also the possibility of a civil suit in either scenario? It seems in case 2 Guy B could sue Guy A for damages (hospital bills, lost work and such) even if a criminal trial set Guy A free. And likewise in case 1, Guy B's family could sue. I seem to recall something like this happening before in the "If the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit" case.

In any case, truth is stranger than fiction. :)

reenkam
06-09-2007, 08:01 AM
Thanks for all the imput and information. I knew none of this, basically, so it all really helped. I definitely won't go with the first scenerio, and I'm thinking of making it a really really minor injury since I don't want the character to be in too much trouble

katiemac
06-09-2007, 08:16 AM
Funnily enough, I caught a rerun episode of Judging Amy, where almost this exact event played out.

One student charged up a set of stairs, hit another kid who fell back and hit his head. He died. Since the first student couldn't be cleared of self-defense, I believe he ended up with something like three years in a juvenile detention center, possibly with some probation afterward. Depending on the fight itself, a judge might also require anger management or similiar therapy (esp. if the other student died) while in the detention center.

Keep in mind, however, I know nothing about the legal system other than what I see on tv -- so take with a grain of salt!

reenkam
06-09-2007, 10:52 AM
thanks katiemac! perfect timing

freethinker
06-09-2007, 11:11 AM
Interestingly, a local student died after being struck and falling in a parking lot outside a club here in South Carolina.

They're going for unpremeditated murder (murder II) with a hate crime enhancement. The victim was 20 wm, and homosexual. Apparently he was assaulted because of this fact.

It might affect your story. Was the victim a minority or otherwise targetable as a hate crime? Many states will try minors as adults in situations like that.

reenkam
06-09-2007, 08:41 PM
It was just that Guy B was dating the girl that Guy A wanted so Guy A decided to deal with it by punching Guy B (who's an annoying jock-type character) in the face in the middle of class.

ideagirl
06-09-2007, 08:42 PM
Isn't there also the possibility of a civil suit in either scenario? It seems in case 2 Guy B could sue Guy A for damages (hospital bills, lost work and such) even if a criminal trial set Guy A free. And likewise in case 1, Guy B's family could sue. I seem to recall something like this happening before in the "If the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit" case.

Yep. The reason B could win a lawsuit against A even if A were acquitted of the crime is that the level of proof required to convict someone of a crime ("beyond a reasonable doubt") is higher than the level required to find someone liable for a tort such as assault and battery. The proof required in civil suits (e.g. torts) is only "a preponderance of the evidence," i.e. the jury in a civil suit just has to find that it's more likely than not that A injured B. And civil juries don't have to be unanimous, unlike US criminal juries. So it's just easier to hold someone liable civilly than to convict them criminally.

freethinker
06-09-2007, 08:44 PM
it would be more likely that a civil suit would sue on the basis of wrongful death, which generally carries much heavier financial penalties.