Battery On a Peace Officer
Disagreements arise every other day, and sometimes tempers can flare into a physical altercation, causing you to be charged with a crime such as battery or assault. In any case, the use of unlawful force against another person, whether it was intended or not, is a severe crime. In California, the severity of the crime will depend on the victim and whether or not they were battered in the line of duty. Battery is one of the more serious crimes in California, and when committed on a peace officer, the penalties could be more severe, which is why you need the help of an LA Criminal Defense Attorney.
Legal Definition of Battery
As per Section 242 of the Penal Code, a simple case of battery entails an illegal and intended use of violence or force on another person. While many people will only use the term battery in cases involving severe beatings and serious bodily injuries, California law will find you guilty of the offense even if you did not cause any injury on your victim. As long as you offensively touched the victim, you could be guilty of battery.
For a battery case to stand, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant touched the victim willfully and in an offensive or harmful manner. The touching admitted here is one that is rude, violent, angry or disrespectful. Willfully, in this case, means that you intended to do so and that the incident was not an accident. Touching could be direct or by use of an object.
Definition of Battery on a Peace Officer
In the state, battery charges will carry a more substantial penalty if they are committed against specific individuals. According to Section 243(b & c) of the Penal Code, it is a serious crime to commit such an offense as battery on a peace officer. If a person knowingly and illegally used unnecessary force or acted with violence against a peace or protected officer while the officer was in the line of duty, that person will be charged under the established law. The severity of the penalties will again depend on the severity of the crime and whether or not the person caused an injury upon that officer.
A Peace Officer is a broad term that is used to refer to a particular class of individuals including:
- Police officers
- Custodial officers
- Members of a search and rescue team
- ER and EMT doctors and nurses
- Employees of the probation department
- Traffic Cops
- Animal control officers
- Service processors
The legal definitions of a peace officer are:
As designated by Chapter 830 of California Penal Code
Any person who meets the requirements of this chapter, as well as the elements of a peace officer as provided by the law, is a peace officer.
All sheriffs, deputy sheriffs or even undersheriffs that are working in any county within the state of California are considered peace officers.
This includes chiefs of police, directors of police or the CEOs of all safety agencies that offer services similar to those of the police. Other peace officers include:
- All police officers employed in that capacity and appointed by the chief or director of police or the CEO of a public safety agency
- All police officers or chiefs of police of all districts, who have been authorized by the California law to establish and maintain a police department
- Members of California Police Department whose primary mandate is enforcement of the law within their specified area of operation
- Police appointed by California Exposition and State Fair Board of Directors as per Section 3332 of the Food and Agricultural Law and whose mandate is to enforce the law as described in this chapter
This includes all marshals or deputy marshals working in a superior county or court within the state’s Department of justice.
Also, marshals appointed by California Exposition and State Fair Board of Directors as per Section 3332 of the Food and Agricultural Law and whose mandate is to enforce the law as described in this chapter.
This includes all port wardens or any port police working in the Harbor Department of Los Angeles City.
Inspectors and investigators
All inspectors and/or investigators who have been employed in that capacity in the office of the District Attorney.
Department of Justice employees
This includes the attorney general and all special agents working for the department in various positions. They also include chiefs, assistant chiefs, deputy chiefs, and deputy directors as well as division directors who have been appointed as peace officers by the Attorney General.
All members of the State’s Highway Patrol whose primary duty is enforcement of any law that relate to use and operation of vehicles on the highways.
Corrections and Rehabilitation Department employees
They include members of the Correctional Safety office in the said department whose primary mandate is to investigate and apprehend wards, inmates, parole violators, parolees and those that escape from institutions in the state.
Also, every person working in the Internal Affairs office in the Corrections and Rehabilitation Department, who is mandated with criminal investigations within the said department.
Department of Fish and Game employees
Everyone working for the state’s Fish and Game Department, who has been designated as peace officers by the Director and whose primary role is to enforce the law as provided in the California Fish and Game Penal Code Section 856.
Employees in Parks and Recreation Department
This includes those who have been appointed by the department’s director as per Section 5008 of California Legal Code for Public Resources. These officers are those whose mandate is to enforce the law that has been set forth by the same legal code.
Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
These include the director in charge of Forestry and Forest protection and all classes of employees working under him/her, who has been appointed by the director as peace officers according to the Public Resources Law Section 4156. The officers' primary mandate is to enforce the law protecting public resources.
Alcoholic Beverage Control Department employees
This includes persons mandated with enforcement of the law governing alcoholic beverages as provided by Division 9 of the California Code Section 23000, of Business and Professions Law.
This includes all nurses, physicians and other healthcare professionals who are providing emergency medical care outside a clinic, hospital or healthcare facility.
Also, emergency medical technicians which consist of all EMTs or paramedics who possess a valid certificate as required by Division 2.5 of the law governing Health and Safety standards.
This also includes members of a rescue committee working with medical professionals, police and other bodies in a rescuing mission.
What Does the Prosecutor Need To Prove?
Any form of battery is a severe offense in California, and the stakes can get even worse when the victim is a peace officer. As provided in Section 243 (b) of California Penal Code, touching a peace officer or any protected officer in an offensive or harmful manner is a form of battery that attracts a higher penalty. However, the prosecution must prove a few things for the defendant to be convicted of this crime:
That the victim was a peace officer and that he/she was involved in his/her official duty
The victim of attack has to meet the California legal definition of a peace officer, and there must be proof that the said officer was attacked in the line of his/her duty. The law in Section 243 (b) is apparent that the defendant in the crime of battery on a peace officer can only be sentenced if the said officer was involved in the routine of their duty. This, however, doesn’t mean that the protected person has to be in the exact place where they perform their duty; what is essential is that the victim was performing his/her duties as required of a peace officer at the time of the attack. This, therefore, will include any action taken when an officer is off-duty or is serving in another role even privately, but still as a security or peace officer.
That the defendant illegally and willfully touched the victim in an offensive and harmful manner
That the defendant was reasonably aware or must have known that the victim was a peace officer
The prosecution must prove that the accused was aware or must have been aware that the victim was a peace officer. If the accused was not aware that his/her victim was a protected person, there must have been clear indications to make the defendant know that the victim was an officer for him/her to be convicted. If the said officer was a stranger or an ordinary person to the defendant, he/she might not be condemned or this particular crime. Some of the evidence that could be used to prove the fact that the victim was aware or must have been aware that the victim was a protected officer includes:
- The peace officer was in uniform
- The officer had identified themselves to the victim before the battery
- The officer had displayed his/her badge or shown the victim his/her credentials
- The protected officer was working alongside other peace officers/police officers
The victim sustained injuries as a result of the attack
The judge will use this fact to determine whether the crime committed was a misdemeanor or a felony. Depending on the nature of the offense, the defendant's punishment could be a little lenient or severe, both of which involve a fine and/or imprisonment.
Penalties for Battery on Peace Officers
Typically, battery against a peace officer is treated as a misdemeanor in California. However, if the officer sustained injuries, you could be charged with either a felony or a misdemeanor.
Misdemeanor battery on peace officers
The battery on a protected officer, without any infuriating factors, will be charged as a misdemeanor in the state of Los Angeles. If you are sentenced for misdemeanor battery on any protected person, you could face the following penalties:
- A year in a county jail in Los Angeles
- A criminal fine of up to $2500
Felony battery on peace officers
This will be a more serious crime because the officer sustained injuries as a result of the assault and so, it will be charged as a felony. As a felony, the punishments for the battery are:
- Sixteen months, two or three years in the state prison, depending on the seriousness of the injuries and the presiding judge
- A criminal fine of not more than $25,000
- Both the sentence and fine
If the officer's body was significantly harmed, or it is established that the accused acted in the support of an illegal gang, or there was a use of a deadly weapon such as a gun in the crime, the crime will automatically be charged as a felony.
Possible Defenses in the Crime of Battery on a Peace Officer
The crime of this nature is quite severe, and the penalties can be more severe if you are not able to defend yourself properly during the trial. However, just for the reason that one has battered a protected person, it doesn’t mean that they may end up getting convicted of the crime. Defendants have the right of defending themselves, and this means that you can hire the most competent criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles to help you out. An experienced attorney will take time to comprehensively investigate the alleged crime to establish the right channels of defense he/she can apply in your case.
The good thing is that there are several possible defenses that your attorney can apply in your case to give the prosecutor a hard time in building a solid case against you. With the best defense, the prosecutor may be left with only two options: to offer you a plea bargain or to end the case altogether. Some of these defenses include:
Not aware of whom the victim is
A defendant could not be condemned for battering a peace officer if he/she was not aware that the said person was a protected officer, or he/she did not have a way of knowing that the victim was a peace officer. If the prosecutor is not able to prove that you knew that your victim was a peace officer, he may have to do away with the case. Note that you could still be charged for battery if enough proof is found that you indeed committed the crime.
California law allows a person to use some reasonable power to defend themselves but only in certain circumstances. The only problem is if a person uses more power than necessary, causing an injury on another person. In this case, if it is proven that the peace officer, maybe a police officer who used more power than is considered reasonable to arrest or subdue the accused, the defendant may be defensible as per the law if they battered the officer. However, this will be carefully considered by the court before a verdict is made.
Defense of another person
Just like self-defense, the court may be sympathetic to a person who hit a peace officer while defending another person. Your attorney must, however, provide evidence that indeed the said officer was using excessive force that necessary another person, which is why you intervened.
If no battery occurred, the defendant would not be charged with it. For you to be charged and convicted, the prosecutor must attest that the crime of battery happened. This means that there must be evidence that you willfully and illegally touched a police officer in an offensive or harmful manner.
A case of mistaken identity
You could be wrongfully accused of such a crime as battery on a peace officer especially if you resemble a person believed to have committed the crime. In such a case, your attorney must dig the facts to prove to the court that you are being mistaken for the person who allegedly committed the crime. If the evidence provided is sufficient, the charges will be dropped.
Related Offenses and Additional Punishments
These are factors that determine conviction. For instance, you will face a tougher sentence in case the victim was a senior citizen or a person with a physical or a mental disability that limits their daily activities. In this case, you can face additional charges of abuse of an elderly (Penal Code 368) or face extreme punishment if the victim with the disability was dependent. On the other hand, you will face a lenient punishment if you willingly gave back the property you are alleged to have embezzled before you are charged with the crime. Returning property does not shield you from being convicted.
Can an Embezzlement Conviction be Expunged?
There are a few offenses that can be charged alongside the crime of Battery on a Peace Officer:
Aggravated battery on a peace officer causing serious bodily injury
This is an even more severe battery crime, and it involves battery on a peace officer resulting in serious bodily injury. According to Section 243 d of California Penal Code, this kind of crime is charged as a felony, penalized by imprisonment for one year or two, three or even four years, depending on how severe the injuries are.
Aggravated battery on a peace officer using a lethal weapon
As per Section 245(a) of California laws, assault on a peace officer or any other person with an instrument or a fatal weapon such as a firearm is punishable by imprisonment for either two, or three or four years in a state prison, or in the county jail for not more than a year, together with a fine of not more than $10,000. Both penalties may apply.
The Three Strikes Law
This is applied to any person who commits a serious/aggravated felony through an attack that causes severe bodily harm on a peace officer or attacking a protected person with an instrument or deadly weapon. As per Section 245(a) of California law, the offense may end up with a strike on defendant's record. This means that the defendant may be sentenced for twice the term that has been provided for the crime, especially if he is not a first time offender of the same or similar offense.
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Battery on a Protected Officer
Can one be accused of felony battery on a protected officer even when the officer did not pursue medical treatment?
Being charged with felony means that the attack was severe and that the officer sustained severe injuries in his/her body. The nature, degree and the significance of the injuries sustained will be the prosecutor's primary consideration in determining your case. If however, the victim did not go to the hospital to seek medical treatment, it could mean that the injuries were not serious after all, and so, you may end up facing lesser penalties if you have an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side.
Can one still be accused of battery on a protected officer if the attack was not intended?
Whether you intended to hurt a protected person or not is irrelevant as long as you did it. The attack may not have happened, but as long as you deliberately touched the victim in an offensive or harmful way, you will face the charges. The only time one may not be charged is if it is established that they used rational force in defending themselves or in defense of another person.
Will one still be charged if the peace officer was not in the line of duty?
Yes. In California, it will not matter whether the protected person was on duty at the time of the attack or not. If he/she was not on duty for instance, but you knew that he/she was a peace officer, or he/she informed you, you will still be charged with the crime. The charges will still hold if the officer was not on duty, but he/she was performing his/her duties at the time of the attack.