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Affray in Georgia
O.C.G.A. § 16-11-32 defines an affray as the “fighting by two or more persons in some public place to the disturbance of the public tranquility.” The statute classifies Affray as a misdemeanor. As such, it may carry a penalty of up to one year of incarceration and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
In order for a person to be convicted on an affray charge, the finder of fact (either the judge or the jury) must find that a defendant was a willing participant in the fight rather than the victim of an assault. Johnson v. State, 135 Ga.App. 360 (1975).
Conversely, “where evidence shows that one of the parties acted entirely in self-defense, while other assaulted and beat him, the aggressor may be guilty of assault and battery, but neither of them guilty of affray.” Revbar Corp. v. Marthaler, 180 Ga.App. 559 (1986).
Intent to participate in a fight may be determined from the facts and circumstances surrounding the fight. For example, in Watson v. State, the participants “engaged in a verbal exchange before and after the physical altercation.” The Court of Appeals held that this could be enough for a jury to conclude that the Defendant was a willing participant in the fight and thus guilty of Affray. Watson v. State, 261 Ga.App. 562 (2003).
It is important to note that an Affray must have at least two participants in order for an Affray conviction to be upheld. The successful defense of one of the participants operates as an acquittal of the other. In re S.W., 269 Ga.App. 108 (2004). This does not mean, however, that all charges relating to the fight must be dismissed. The aggressor may still be charged with, for example, a Battery charge.
Why Hire an Attorney for an Affray charge?
It is easy to imagine a scenario where a person’s attempt to defend himself or herself is mistaken by law enforcement for willing participation in a fight. This often results in both parties being charged with Affray. You need a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney who won’t push you to plead out just because your Affray charge is a misdemeanor. Instead, you need an attorney who understands that any criminal case is potentially life-changing, and who will listen to your side of the story and make sure the judge and jury hear it as well. If you have been charged with Affray, contact me today.