Assault on a Public Official

Assaulting a public official is a serious criminal offense in California that attracts severe consequences including huge fines and imprisonment. If you or your loved one has been arrested for Assault on a Public Official in Los Angeles, California, you can get immediate legal representation by contacting the LA Criminal Defense Attorney. We are experienced in criminal defense, and we can help you to fight any charges of assault.

What is Considered Assault on a Public Official in California?

The criminal law in California makes special protection provisions for the vulnerable people in society and public officers. While Assault is an offense when committed against any member of the public, the law goes a bit further to make Assault on public officers a separate offense with more severe penalties.

To prove that a defendant assaulted a public official, the prosecutor must prove the following three elements:

  • The defendant committed an assault,
  • The Assault committed was against a public officer or an immediate family member of the public officer, and
  • The defendant committed the offense to either prevent the public official from performing their official duties or in retaliation.

A perfect example could be spraying a pepper spray on a public officer who voted for a policy that negatively affected your business.


Assault is an illegitimate attempt to injure another person when you can do so. You don't have to harm the public official to be charged with Assault in California. That means you don't require to use force on the victim. Taking an action that could lead to force being used on the victim is enough to prove this element.

Even the slightest touch counts if it's done in an offensive or inappropriate manner. The touch does not need to be direct either. It can be indirect by using something to touch the supposed victim.

Public Official

Under California Penal Code section 217.1 (a), a public official is any person in the following category:

  • US president or vice president,
  • A territory or state's governor,
  • A commissioner, referee or subordinate judicial official,
  • A state, federal or local justice, a current or former juror,
  • A director or secretary of an executive agency whether state or federal,
  • A state or federal elected official,
  • A city council worker, mayor, county supervisor, municipal chief of police, or peace officer,
  • A former or current prosecutor, and
  • A former or current public defender.

The term immediate family member, on the other hand, includes the public official's children, spouse, parents, step-parents, siblings, and step-siblings.


The third most important element of Penal Code 217.1 (a) is that a defendant can only be found guilty of the offense if they assaulted the public officer either to prevent them from carrying out their duties or to revenge.

In short, if you commit an assault on a public officer but the crime is not related to their official job, then you can't be convicted of the crime in question. You could, however, be convicted of either Assault with a dangerous weapon or simple Assault.

How Battery on a Public Official Differs from Assault on a Public Official

One of the most common misconceptions in criminal law has to do with battery and Assault. Most people believe these offenses are the same or they are charged alongside each other. However, they are two different offenses in California.

Like mentioned earlier, assaulting a public officer is attempting to apply force or violence on the officer. The most effective way to define Assault is either threatening or trying to hit the person.

In contrast, battery on a public officer is when you touch a public officer using violence or force. It is worth bearing in mind that this offense also includes any form of non-consensual touching that is offensive or harmful. Examples of battery include pushing the public officer, throwing an object at the person, hitting using a weapon or hands, and spitting on the official.

It is crucial to understand that Assault on a public official happens before the battery on the officer. For instance, if you threaten to throw a stone at a public officer, then you have committed an assault. If you go ahead and throw the stone and injure the public officer, then you have committed battery.

What are the Various Types of Assault?

Simple Assault

Simple Assault is the least degree of Assault. Generally, it is charged as a California misdemeanor. It is committed when a defendant recklessly or knowingly causes bodily harm. Additionally, a mere threat of severe injury that the alleged victim reasonably believes is immediate and real is enough to constitute simple Assault.

Aggravated Assault

Aggravated Assault includes several and more severe assault charges. To be charged with Aggravated Assault, you must have intended to cause severe bodily injury, used a dangerous weapon such as a knife, gun, motor vehicle or bat and caused a temporary or permanent injury.

Sexual Assault

Sexual Assault can be defined as having carnal knowledge of another person forcibly and against their will. In other words, it is rape and involves sexual penetration without the alleged victim's consent. Voyeurism and improper touching also constitute sexual Assault.

Sexual offenses are punishable by more severe penalties, and a defendant could serve life imprisonment.


Contact Us Today for Immediate Assistance!

What Penalties Does California Penal Code section 217.1 (a) Violation Carry?

Assaulting a public official in California is a wobbler. That means the prosecutor can choose to either charge it as a felony or a misdemeanor.

If charged with a misdemeanor, you could face:

  • Summary (misdemeanor) probation,
  • A maximum of one year sentence in county jail, and
  • A maximum fine of $1,000.

Felony charges carry the following penalties:

  • Formal probation,
  • Serving 16 months, two years or 3 years in a county jail under California realignment program, and
  • A maximum fine of $10,000.

The accused may receive a strike in line with the Three Strikes Law depending on the type of conduct exhibited at the time of committing the crime. If the prosecutor establishes your actions amount to a strike and it's a second one, your penalties double up. If it is the third strike, you risk facing a sentence period of twenty-five years to a life sentence in California prison.

A public officer who has been a victim of an assault has a right to sue the perpetrator. Because no actual physical injury is required, assault lawsuits vary a lot as far as damage awards are concerned. If the victim requires hospitalization or extensive medical attention, they may file a personal injury claim. You will be required to reimburse the victim medical expenses and compensation for non-economic aspects such as pain and suffering.

What is California's Realignment Program?

Realignment AB 109 is the process of significant change in the criminal justice system. It transfers the role of supervising certain types of California prison parolees and felony defendants from state prison and parole agents to probation officers and county jails. Enacted through California Assembly Bill 109 in 2011, this sentencing scheme applies to any person sentenced after October 1, 2011.

Although realignment is different from felony probation, it comes with compulsory supervision that is conducted following the conditions, terms, and procedures applicable to a person on probation.

What are the Sentencing Options under Realignment?

There are different sentencing options under California Penal Code 1170(h). The court could jail you the full amount of jail time allowed. Alternatively, the court could detain you for a portion of time entitled and then place you on out-of-custody compulsory supervision for the remaining part of your sentence.

Other sentencing options include community service, house arrest, restorative justice programs, work release, furlough programs, and substance abuse treatment.

What are the Legal Defenses to Penal Code 271.1 (a) PC Violation?

Hiring a competent criminal defense lawyer to fight Penal Code 271.1 (a) charges on your behalf is essential. The attorney could negotiate for alternative punishment as well as argue that the prosecutor didn't present enough evidence. Additionally, your lawyer will use any of the discussed-below legal aggressive defenses to try and ensure your penalties are reduced or dismissed altogether.

No Present Ability to Inflict a Violent Harm

If you get into an argument with a public officer, chances are you could use harsh gestures or words. You might even try to hurt them. However, if you couldn't hurt them, then you cannot be convicted of any form of Assault.

If the victim is stronger or younger than you, your lawyer could use this to fight the accusations or even arrange charges reduced to a crime with fewer penalties such as distributing peace (Penal Code section 415 PC).

No Intention to Get a Revenge or Hinder Performance of Duties

As mentioned earlier, you can't be charged with Assault on a public official except when you assault the officer intending to revenge or stop them from carrying out their public duties. Consequently, in the absence of the proof demonstrating that you committed the crime due to the above reasons, you're likely to be charged with Simple Assault.

You Responded in Self Defense or Defense of other people

This applies to Penal Code 217.1 (a) charges when all these elements are correct:

  • You thought that you or another person was at risk of being touched illegally or sustaining bodily injuries,
  • You thought the immediate application of force could protect you from the danger, and
  • You used little force to defend yourself against the threat.

It is important to note that words regardless of how offensive aren't enough to support an assault charge. You could use this legal defense only if you thought you or another person was vulnerable to a physical injury or an illegal touching.

You were Falsely Accused

It is easy for a public official to falsely accuse you of committing the offense in question out of the desire for retaliation, anger or jealousy. This is because there are no requirements that the victim sustained an injury under California Penal Code section 217.1 (a) PC.

Every skilled criminal defense counsel has experienced a similar case before and knows how to collect evidence as well as interview all witnesses to ensure the truth comes out.

Related Offenses

Assault on a public official charge could be filed in place or in addition to charges for other similar crimes such as:


Under Penal Code 240 PC, Assault involves a threatened attack or attack on another person that doesn't result in physical injury, harm or contact.

Violation of PC 240 assault is a misdemeanor that is punishable by:

  • Summary probation
  • A six-month sentence in county jail
  • A maximum fine of $1,000

Battery or Battery Causing Severe Bodily Injuries (Penal Code 242 PC)

The battery is considered a California misdemeanor. It attracts a six-month sentence in county jail and a maximum fine of $2,000.

If you inflicted a severe injury on the public officer, you could face more severe penalties under Penal Code 242 (d) PC (battery causing severe bodily harm). This crime is a wobbler. If charged with a felony, you risk facing a two, three or four-year sentence in prison.

Assault with a Deadly Weapon (PC 245 (a) (1))

Also commonly referred to as ADW, Assault with a deadly weapon is a wobbler. If charged as a misdemeanor you could serve a one-year sentence in county jail while a felony charge attracts a two, three, or four-year jail sentence.

Disturbing Peace (PC 415)

Under California Penal Code section 415 PC, it is illegal to:

  • Fight another person in public,
  • Direct, provocative words towards someone else in public, or
  • Make unreasonable noise that disturbs others.

Violating disturbing peace laws is a low-level misdemeanor that is punishable by ninety days in jail. It can also be an infraction in other cases.

Battery on a Police or Peace Officer

A battery offense committed against a police or peace officer is more severe than a simple assault on a public officer. California Penal Code 243 makes it unlawful to commit a battery offense on a police or peace officer who is legally performing their duties.

The offense is considered a wobbler offense that could be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on your criminal history and factual circumstances. If the officer does not suffer any injury, the battery is filed as a misdemeanor. It carries a one-year sentence, performing community service, fines, and attending an anger management program.

Felony, on the other hand, is punishable by a three-year sentence in prison, a possible strike, and a fine of $10,000.

Why is it Important to have an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Represent You

Unknown to many defendants who seek to represent themselves, reading books and magazines that spell out offenses, defenses, and penalties will not lead you to win your case. Any skilled attorney will tell you that there is a huge difference between reading law and practicing it. Your lawyer understands the flows and ebbs of an assault on a public official trial that makes a difference between winning and losing your case. Here is how your criminal defense lawyer will help:

Work with the prosecutor to negotiate a plea bargain

A plea bargain can either reduce or dismiss a potential sentence. More often than not, prosecutors are unwilling to negotiate with defendants who represent themselves in court.

Moreover, your lawyer knows what is going on during the trial more than you and is also likely to tell future occurrences. This is because the attorney remains objective throughout the proceedings. These insights, reality checks, and assessments are essential especially when it comes to deciding whether to accept a plea bargain or not.

Develop a good sentencing program for your case

In the event you are convicted of Assault on a public official, your lawyer will be in a position to work your case in a manner that would prevent you from rewinding up in the court. For example, instead of serving time in jail for a year, your lawyer may suggest you spend six months in jail and six months in an anger management facility to assist you with anger issues that landed you in trouble in the first place.

Able to collect evidence from witnesses

Most witnesses, especially in an assault on a public official case, refuse to provide information or statements to defendants for fear of their safety. However, these people may be willing to talk to your lawyer about their testimony.

Engage expert witnesses and investigators

Investigators will investigate your offense as well as the prosecutor's witnesses. They will make sure they get evidence that makes the witnesses' testimony less credible. Likewise, expert witnesses could present proof that shows rebut evidence presented by the prosecutor or show your innocence. This assists your case tremendously.

Outlines the consequences of pleading guilty

Most defendants representing themselves never think about the hidden costs of pleading guilty such as resulting in less severe penalties and life-altering consequences. For instance, it may make finding a lucrative job after completing a jail term hard.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are the Assault on a Public Official Charges Dropped When the Alleged Victim or Witness Fails to Testify?

The answer to this question varies depending on the circumstances surrounding your case. There are several reasons why the jury may continue with the case even after the victim/witness fails to appear in court or is uncooperative. These reasons include:

  • The court may not require the alleged victim's testimony if they called 911 and that call was recorded and can be available for trial. While this call is not sworn testimony, it may report what caused the charges such as threatening the victim.
  • Victims may refuse to testify because they fear the defendant. They may even acquire a protection order against the accused to avoid future contact with them. If bound by a protection order, you may find yourself in more legal trouble if you defile protection order's instructions. Also, intimidating the victim or witness as a way to get them not to testify may result in additional legal charges.

Can you Use Voluntary Intoxication as Defense to Assault on a Public Official?

In the state of California, any person who assaults a public official while drunk can't use voluntary intoxication as a defense. Instead, evidence that shows you were drunk at the time of committing the offense makes it harder for you to prove your innocence. This is because you ought to know that drugs and alcohol impair one's mental functioning.

However, if you can prove that you were involuntarily intoxicated, you may not be convicted of Assault on a public official because you didn't decide to take the intoxicating substance.

Why Is Provocation not a Defense?

It's not a defense to assault a public official because you were answering back a provocative behavior that wasn't an attempt to cause physical injury or a threat. Words alone, regardless of how annoying or offensive, are not an excuse for Assault.

What does Severe Bodily Injury Mean?

Severe bodily injury is a substantial or significant injury (it doesn't have to be permanent). It is a question of fact that is decided by the court depending on circumstances surrounding the case. Common injuries considered severe bodily injury include chipped teeth, cuts requiring stitches, severe swelling and bruising, and broken bones.

Find a Competent Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me

Will I have a criminal record for the rest of my life? Will this crime affect my job? You probably have many thoughts going through your mind if you have been charged with Assault on a Public Official. At the LA Criminal Defense Attorney, we understand what you are going through, and we are ready to help you. Hiring a lawyer is the wisest thing you can do for yourself. No case is too hard for an experienced lawyer to make a difference. Call our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer today at 310-933-9439 and allow us to answer your questions, represent you and protect your rights.