CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — Want to duke out your differences in a fist fight without getting arrested? Maybe not in West Virginia.
West Virginia has charges for battery and assault which make it illegal to fight someone, even if both parties involved consent to it.
A person is charged with misdemeanor assault if he or she “unlawfully attempts to commit a violent injury to the person of another or unlawfully commits an act that places another in reasonable apprehension of immediately receiving a violent injury,” according to the West Virginia Code. The penalty is up to six months in jail or a fine of up to $100.
Someone who “unlawfully and intentionally makes physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature to the person of another or unlawfully and intentionally causes physical harm to another person,” is charged with misdemeanor battery. The penalty is up to a year in jail or a fine of up to $500.
If a weapon is involved, it becomes a felony charge.
Dueling is also illegal in West Virginia, although there is no jail time or fine connected to it. State Code says:
“Any citizen of this state who shall, either in or out of the state, fight a duel with deadly weapons, or send or accept a challenge so to do, or who shall act as a second, or knowingly aid or assist in such duel, shall ever thereafter be incapable of holding any office of honor, trust or profit in this state.West Virginia State Code §6-5-7
When can you legally fight someone in West Virginia?
1. If someone is breaking into your home
According to West Virginia Code §55-7-22, if someone is attacking or trying to forcibly enter your legal home, you are “justified in using reasonable and proportionate force” to prevent the attack. The code even says that someone can use deadly force against an attacker “if the occupant reasonably believes that the intruder or attacker intends to commit a felony in the home or residence and the occupant reasonably believes deadly force is necessary.”
2. If someone attacks you
Similarly, if you are not in your home in a place that you are legally allowed to be and someone attacks you, you can legally “use reasonable and proportionate force against an intruder or attacker.” Deadly force is also allowed in this instance if a person “reasonably believes that he or she or another is in imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm from which he or she or another can only be saved by the use of deadly force against the intruder or attacker,” according to the code.
If you are attempting to commit a crime or provoked the attacker, the above instances do not apply, the code says.
3. Under State Athletic Commission
Organized fighting events are allowed when authorized by the State Athletic Commission, including boxing and mixed martial arts. According to West Virginia Code §29-5A-3, the five-person commission “has sole direction, management, and control of the jurisdiction over all amateur, professional, and semiprofessional boxing, sparring matches, and exhibitions, or any form thereof, to be conducted, held or given within the state by any club, individual, corporation, or association.”
In the case of full contact boxing matches, the commission may also “impose any limitations or restrictions reasonably necessary to guarantee the safety of the participants and the fair and honest conducting of the matches.”
Where is fighting legal?
According to World Population Review, there are currently only two states that allow fighting when it is consensual among all parties: Texas and Washington. In Washington, a fight is legal as long as both parties consent, it is overseen by a police officer, and no bystanders or property are injured or damaged.
Texas also requires mutual fights to be overseen by police, and the combat becomes illegal if someone is seriously injured.
The only state that specifically bans mutual fighting is Oregon; most states, including West Virginia, don’t have a specific rule before or against it.