Policy Review: Mutual Combat

Kicking off a new segment for Comment, Muslim Taseer looks at one of the oddest laws in America

Muslim Taseer
8th May 2020
Image: Wallpaperflare and Candida.Performa on Flickr
In a new segment for Comment, writers are invited to give an account of a single policy - contemporary or historical - and ask whether or not it's been a success. This week, Muslim Taseer discusses a bizarre law still on the books in certain US states.

They never should've outlawed duelling. People need a healthy, legal outlet to settle disputes. That's one thing the old world had right. It was a practice found in almost every society, which should've told the lawmakers something about its necessity. Nevertheless, we live in the 21st century, and in the 21st century, you cannot legally duel people. Shame. However, a vestige of duelling remains in some places. For one, in a number of US states, mutual combat is recognised by law. Two participants can engage in a fair fight as long as they don't hurt bystanders or damage property, often under the watchful eyes of cops themselves! Now, in more boring places of the world that aren't wastelands of stupidity, this is affray, an offence. But I'm glad to know that in some parts of the world, you and another combatant can mutually agree to beat the shit out of each other. Mutual combat rocks, and I'm proud to say I've dabbled in it myself. (I am an absolute fool.)

Mutual combat has been used by vigilantes, and even Zac Efron

The legal loophole seems to have originated out of a lack of any specific statute in the United States that prohibits consensual combat, and as a common-law defence for assault and battery charges, interestingly enough. In one case where a Fox executive was slain by a drug dealer over an affair, the defence argued that the death came about through mutual combat. This seemed to have contributed to the jury's decision to convict for voluntary manslaughter instead of first-degree murder. In another famous case, self-styled "real-life" superhero Phoenix Jones of Seattle engaged in mutual combat with a drunk who called him a racial slur, under the supervision of the police themselves, and knocked him out cold. He was wearing a super-hero suit and all. I'm not messing with you, look it up. Apparently Zac Efron engaged in mutual combat once too. Absolutely glorious.

Mutual combat could be regulated and made into an actual policy

I'm giving mutual combat three policy points out of a possible five, since I believe it could be regulated by actual legislation, and made into an actual policy, instead of a legal edge-case defence. Right now, it seems like a crack in the law that will soon be patched up.

Tom Leach's Policy Review on Portugal's drug decriminalisation can be found here.

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