Criminal Defense Attorneys Defending People Accused of Assaulting a Peace Officer
In cases where a battery offense is allegedly committed on any type of peace officer, the individual will most likely face battery on a peace officer charges in violation of California Penal Code Sections 243(b) and 243(c). This offense is considered a much more serious violent crime than a simple battery charge.
Los Angeles County prosecutors aggressively pursue a conviction and harsh punishments for individuals convicted of this crime. However, to obtain a conviction, the prosecutor has to prove the defendant willfully made physical contact in an offensive manner to a peace officer who was engaged in the performance of their duties.
It may be possible to prove that the alleged offense was an accident or the peace officer was not lawfully engaging in the performance of their duty at the time of the alleged assault. In some cases, it may be possible to show that the peace officer exaggerated the incident in their report.
If you have been accused of committing battery on a peace officer, you need to immediately contact a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney at Eisner Gorin LLP.
Our lawyers will need to closely review all the details and circumstances of the incident and arrest in order to determine an effective defense strategy. Do not make the mistake of making statements to police detectives.
You should politely decline any request for a statement without first consulting with an attorney. The job of a police detective is to build a criminal case and make an arrest. Do not help them convict you. Let's review the legal definition of battery on a peace officer.
California Penal Code Sections 243(b) and 243(c) – Battery on a Peace Officer
What is a battery on a peace officer?
A peace officer is typically an individual who is employed by a law enforcement agency. In general, a battery is the offensive touching of another individual without consent. It is not necessary that the person touched be injured for a battery to have occurred.
California Penal Code sections 243(b) and 243(c) create a separate crime when the victim of the alleged battery is a “peace officer.” While the victims at issue in these cases are most often police officers, the statute also covers other government employees such as firefighters, emergency medical technicians, probation officers, process servers, traffic officer, animal control officer, code enforcement officer, security officer, and custodial officer.
The related crime of “assault on a public official” is described under California Penal Code 217.1(a), which imposes more serious penalties than a routine misdemeanor simple assault.
The key question when assessing a charge of battery on a peace officer is whether the defendant knew, or reasonably should have known, that the victim of their battery was in fact a peace officer.
What is Considered Performing Their Duties?
This criminal offense only applies if the peace officer you allegedly assaulted was engaging in the performance of their duties at the time of the incident. For example, if you were involved in an incident with an off duty police officer where you struck them, they were not engaging in their normal duty as a police officer and you can't be convicted of under this code section.
Consult with a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer at our law firm for more information.
Simple battery on a peace officer is typically prosecuted as a misdemeanor crime. If convicted, the legal penalty could include probation, up to one year in a Los Angeles County jail, and a fine up to $2,000.
However, if an injury occurred, California Penal Code sections 243(b) and 243(c) are “wobblers,” meaning they can be charged as either misdemeanors or felonies. If convicted of the misdemeanor, battery on a peace officer is punishable by one year in county jail, a $10,000 fine, or both. If convicted of a felony case, battery on a peace officer is punishable by up to 3 years in a California state prison, a $10,000 fine, or both. If the officer sustained a great bodily injury, you will face additional time.
As suggested above, the key defense in a battery on a peace officer case involves the defendant's state of mind. If evidence can demonstrate that the defendant was unaware that the target of their battery was a peace officer, they cannot be convicted under Penal Code 243(b) or 243(c).
How would this scenario play out in the real world? Perhaps the officer was working in plain clothes and failed to clearly announce his status as a peace officer to the defendant. Perhaps the battery took place in a crowded room or a chaotic outdoor situation where the defendant had no way of knowing one person from the next.
In addition to defenses related to the defendant's knowledge of the victim's status as a peace officer, general defenses to battery also apply to charges of battery on a peace officer. One such common defense is accident.
To commit a battery, the defendant must take a volitional act to make unprivileged contact with another individual. For instance, if someone in a crowd pushes you from behind causing you to bump into a police officer, you have not committed a battery as the contact was unintentional on your part.
Similarly, if you turn quickly and your arm happens to strike a police officer who, unbeknownst to you, was standing immediately behind you, you have not committed a battery as you had no intention to make contact with the officer.
Your Los Angeles criminal defense attorney may be able to prove you were acting in self-defense or were reasonably defending another individual to prevent the use of an unlawful act of excessive force.
It may also be possible to prove the peace officer is exaggerating the circumstances or even lying in their report. Finally, it should be noted that this charge only applies to a peace officer who is struck in the course of their duties. If the peace officer is either off-duty, or engaged in unlawful conduct at the time of the battery, then the defendant cannot be convicted of battery on a peace officer.
Call a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer
At Eisner Gorin LLP, our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys specialize in defending our client's rights before court. Especially with a serious charge such as battery on a peace officer, early intervention with law enforcement and the prosecuting agency is critical.
Our prefiling intervention service offers the opportunity for a reduction in charges, or even a complete dismissal. Waiting until formal charges have been filed and a court date is set is rarely an effective strategy for achieving the best possible outcome.
Our top-rated criminal law firm has a track record of success defending our clients against charges of assaulting peace officers. For example, in one case in San Fernando Superior Court, our client was charged with battery on two police officers.
During our independent investigation, our lawyers were able to develop evidentiary problems in the case. After extensive negotiations with the Los Angeles County prosecutor, all the assault charges were dismissed. Our client only received a conviction for a public disturbance infraction.
A conviction can impact your personal and professional life for many years. Let us review all the details of your case to formulate a defense plan.
Contact our defense lawyers for a free immediate response. We are available 24/7 by calling 877-781-1570.