Law is Stranger Than Fiction Episode 3: Legal Dueling in Utah

Did you know that in Utah that some forms of dueling is legal? Listen in on this episode of “Law is Stranger than Fiction” to see what’s legal and what’s not!

Law is Stranger than Fiction is a humorous weekly vlog series presented by the Salt Lake City law firm of Richards Brandt Miller Nelson that focuses on the absurd, the outrageous, and the hard-to-imagine aspects of law and the legal system in today’s society. These guys truly couldn’t make this stuff up. To learn more about Richards Brandt Miller Nelson


Steven:            [00:07] Good Afternoon, welcome to Law is Stranger than Fiction blog. I am one of your co-hosts, Steven Bergman.


Barry:              [0:13] And I am your other host, Barry Scholl.


Steven:            [0:16] We’re shareholders in the law firm of Richards Brandt Miller Nelson. And we are here today to talk about dueling. We’re not talking about Hamilton and Burr. We’re not going out to the Weehawken dueling grounds in New Jersey and we’re definitely not talking about a sword fight. And I definitely want to say that we aren’t talking about the banjos from the film “Deliverance.” But we do want to talk about dueling because surprisingly…


Barry:              [0:38] In Utah some forms of dueling are legal.


Steven:            [0:41] So when you say some forms, what do you mean?


Barry:              [0:43] I mean as long as weapons aren’t involved and the participants are both consenting to duel, there’s no law that prevents consensual altercations in the state of Utah.


Steven:            [0:55] Alright when you say consensual altercation, what does that mean?


Barry:              [0:57] That essentially means mutual combat.


Steven:            [0:59] Mutual combat. If… when you and I are in a bar and you insult my girlfriend or you insult my wife and we say let’s take it outside—is that mutual combat?


Barry:              [1:07] As long as there are no weapons involved, it is mutual combat.


Steven:            {1:09] Okay, so I can’t break off that beer bottle and have that little sharp edge you use then?


Barry:              [1:13] That’s correct.


Steven:            [1:14] Okay, um, when you say it’s consensual… what do you mean by that?


Barry:              [1:18] I mean you have to give consent either verbally, in writing, or by your actions.


Steven:            [1:24] Okay wait so I get out my cell phone and say, “Hi Barry, do you consent to fight me?”

Barry:              [1:28] That would work.


Steven:            [1:29] Okay or do I have to draw up a contract and have you sign?


Barry:              [1:34] That might be a little more technical than required. But if that fits the circumstances, sure.


Steven:            [1:38] Can you claim that it was implied?


Barry:              [1:41] Sure.


Steven:            [1:43] What situation would that be?


Barry:              [1:44] That would be that I say, “Let’s take it outside” and you follow me outside.


Steven:            [1:49} Okay, so now talking about implied consent… it’s actually an amusing story. An actor was charged with homicide in a fight with a homeless person and got out of it by claiming mutually consent. I don’t know if you’re aware of that.


Barry:              [2:01] I did not.


Steven:            [2:02} [Laughs] Okay. So, Utah’s statute. Where’s that statute found?


Barry:              [2:07] That is found at 7-6-5-1-0-4.


Steven:            [2:12] Okay what exactly does the statute say?


Barry:              [2:14] The statute says that in any prosecution for criminal homicide or assault it’s no defense to the prosecution that the defendant was a party to any duel, mutual combat, or other consensual altercation, if during the course of the duel, mutual combat, or altercation if any dangerous weapon was used or if the defendant in an ultimate fighting match, as defined under the law.


Steven:            [2:38] Okay, so the key is getting consent. Is that what you’re trying to say?


Barry:              [2:40] That is absolutely correct.


Steven:            [2:41] Okay, so as long as I and whoever I’m fighting with, if there’s consent and there’s no weapons involved then it’s not illegal to get in that fight.


Barry:              [2:50] You may be violating some other law, but Utah has no law against it.


Steven:            [2:53] Okay, well we’re talking about dueling today. So, I’m not worried about any other laws. Okay well that’s great. So, here’s the reality. Hopefully you aren’t finding yourself in situations when you are challenging people to fights and needing to use the protections of the statute. But there may be other situations in the course of business, the course of everyday life where you need to get consent from somebody or you need their permission or authorization to act. And in those situations, you want to make sure that consent or that authorization is valid. One of the ways to do that is get a video recording of it, put it in writing, or have other circumstances to make it look like that they agree. Anything further?


Barry:              [3:31] Nope, that’ll take care of it.


Steven:            [3:32] Alright, great.