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In many legal jurisdictions related to English common law, affray is a public order offence consisting of the fighting of two or more persons in a public place to the terror (in French: à l'effroi) of ordinary people (the lieges). Depending on their actions, and the laws of the prevailing jurisdiction, those engaged in an affray may also render themselves liable to prosecution for assault, unlawful assembly, or riot; if so, it is for one of these offences that they are usually charged.[1]


England and Wales

In current English Law, affray forms part of the Public Order Act 1986 under section 3. The act states:

A person suspected of affray is subject to arrest, can be tried either way, and faces three years imprisonment and/or a fine on indictment; six months imprisonment and/or a fine summarily.[2] In recent years, the option to charge people with affray has been used as part of a strategy by HM Government to aggressively address problems with drunken individuals who cause serious trouble on airliners.

United States

In the United States the English common law as to affray applies, subject to certain modifications by the statutes of particular states.[1][3]


The Indian Penal Code (sect. 159) adopts the old English Common-Law definition of affray, with the substitution of actual disturbance of the peace for causing terror to the lieges.[1]


The Queensland Criminal Code of 1899 (sect. 72) defines affray as taking part in a fight in a public highway or taking part in a fight of such a nature as to alarm the public in any other place to which the public have access. This definition is taken from that in the English Criminal Code Bill of 1880, cl. 96. Section 72 says "Any person who takes part in a fight in a public place, or takes part in a fight of such a nature as to alarm the public in any other place to which the public have access, commits a misdemeanour. Maximum penalty—1 year’s imprisonment."[4]

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