Many of us have seen security and police break up fights in bars and nightclubs. As Jacksonville criminal lawyer, I have represented people that were involved in bar fights. Most of the time, bar fights do not result in serious bodily injury or death. The two of the most common Florida crimes associated with bar fights are affray and battery.
Section 614.123 is the municipal code that prohibits fighting and affray in Jacksonville FL. This fighting law states, “It shall be unlawful and a class D offense for a person, while in a public place, to engage in a fight or mutual combat with another person or persons; provided, that this Section shall not apply to duly authorized or licensed boxing or wrestling contests.” Section 870.01 of the Florida Statutes makes it a second-degree misdemeanor to engage in fighting or affray.
Section 784.03 of the Florida Statutes is the law for battery in Jacksonville FL. The crime of battery occurs when a person: 1. Actually and intentionally touches or strikes another person against the will of the other; or 2. Intentionally causes bodily harm to another person. Simple battery is usually a first-degree misdemeanor.
Sometimes bar fights escalate beyond affray or simple battery. If a battery occurs and the defendant causes permanent disfigurement or disability or great bodily harm, this is aggravated battery. A defendant may also be charged with aggravated battery for using a deadly weapon.
Jacksonville Beach Manslaughter Conviction
Today, I read a headline stating, “Man guilty of manslaughter in bar fight turned hit-and-run” on First Coast News’ website. This story was about a Jacksonville bar fight that lead to death and a murder trial. According to the news article, “Four years after a Jacksonville Beach man was run over and killed after a bar fight, the man who was behind the wheel of the car that killed him was convicted of a manslaughter charge.” Adam Lloyd Shepard, 34-years-old, was charged with first-degree murder. He was accused of killing Spencer Schott, 35-years-old, after a fight at a Jacksonville Beach sports bar. Under Florida law, a conviction of first-degree murder results in a minimum mandatory sentence of life in prison. After a trial by jury, Shepard was convicted of manslaughter, a lesser-included offense of first-degree murder. Shepard’s trial took place at the Duval County Court House and jury selection began on June 1, 2015. The trial concluded on June 10, 2015 after the state attorney and defense lawyer presented their closing arguments. The state attorney argued that the defendant acted with premeditation and was guilty of first-degree murder. The defense lawyer argued that that the killing was an accident. The jury returned a verdict for manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident causing death. A Jacksonville News Post article gave a factual background for the case:
“Schott died in January 2011 when he was run over across the street from the apartment complex where he lived on the 1300 block of Shetter Avenue in Jacksonville Beach. Prosecutors said Shepard lured Schott to that parking lot and deliberately ran him over. Defense attorneys said Schott got out of his car, took off his jacket and ran toward Shepard. They said Shepard was trying to get away and didn’t realize he’d hit Schott until he saw it on the news. The two men met days before at a dog park and realized they were both fans of the University of Kansas. They played golf together and then went to Sneakers Sports Grille to watch the Kansas basketball team play Texas. Texas won, and the two men ended up getting into a fight. Sneakers employees threw Shepard out of the bar, and he then called and texted Schott at least 30 times, including several calls after he ran Schott over.”
The Duval County State Attorney’s Office charged Shepard with murder in the first degree in Jacksonville. “Assistant State Attorney Lee Smith told jurors that Shepard murdered Schott in a fit of rage…. Schott ended up with a broken back, neck, ribs and a crushed skull, Smith said. Shepard fled the area and first went to Kansas to get money and a new vehicle from his mother. He then went to Chicago, where he was arrested. Smith said when police finally got Shepard’s car in Kansas, they found DNA from Schott underneath.”
The defense laywer argued that this was an accident. “Defense attorney Matthew Kachergus said Shepard didn’t mean to hit Schott…. It was Schott who started the fight with Shepard at the bar, and his client then had to walk back to the apartment complex because that was where he’d left his car, Kachergus said. Shepard, who was drunk, then drove across the street but didn’t want to drive any farther because of his intoxication. But he drove away when Schott, who also was drunk, returned home and ran at him, Kachergus said.”