The willful and unlawful use of violence against another person is a battery crime in California. If the victim is a peace officer, you will face charges for battery on a peace officer, which carries harsher penalties compared to simple battery charges. If you are facing these charges, get in touch with us at the San Diego Criminal Attorney to help you build an excellent defense strategy.
Understanding Battering a Peace Officer in California
In California, everything to do with the battery on a peace officer is defined under Penal Code 243(b) and 243(c). In both Penal Codes, it is an offense to willfully and unlawfully use violence or force on another person. However, the difference between the two statutes is the severity of the injuries on the peace officer. Under Penal Code 243(b), battering a peace officer is a misdemeanor, while under Penal Code 243(c), committing a battery on a peace officer and causing bodily injury is a felony.
Elements of Crime in Penal Code 243(b) and (c)
For a prosecutor to successfully charge anyone with a crime, they must prove the specific elements of the crime. The following are elements of battery on a peace officer:
The alleged victim was a peace officer or a protected person performing his or her official duties
The defendant touched the peace officer willfully and unlawfully, and the touch was harmful or offensive
The defendant had a reasonable knowledge that the alleged victim was a peace officer or was protected by the law to perform his or her duties
Here is a breakdown of these elements.
A Peace Officer or a Protected Person was Involved
An alleged battery on a peace officer or someone protected by a law enforcement agency must have either of the following as victims:
Officers working in the sheriff’s department
California Highway Patrol officers
Harbor or port police
Police officers working as casual police security guards can also be part of the above group as long as they are performing peace duties.
There are other public officials that California’s law on battery on a peace officer includes. These officials are as follows:
Emergency medical technician and paramedics
Animal control officers
Code enforcement officers
Search and rescue members
Doctors and nurses offering emergency medical services
Employees of the probation department
The Alleged Victim was Performing His or Her Duties
For the crime to be eligible, the alleged victim must be performing his or her official duties during the battery. Therefore, if your allegation is associated with battering a traffic officer, he or she must be conducting his or her legal obligation of a traffic officer. Most probably, the alleged battery would have happened on a designated traffic checkpoint.
Any incident that occurs outside the legal duties does not count as eligible for the case. For instance, if you start a bar fight with a firefighter, this will not count as a battery on a peace officer but can make you guilty of simple battery.
Touched the Alleged Victim Violently or Offensively
There is no clear definition of touching someone violently or offensively. However, a slight action of touching someone rudely or angrily can count as a violent or offensive action. This applies even when the action does not cause any injury to the alleged victim.
On the other hand, it can include an action that was done through an object associated with the alleged victim. It can include items such as the clothes, a purse that the alleged victim is carrying, and so on.
For the action performed against the alleged victim to be eligible for a case, it must be intentional. Willfully means that the action was done on purpose or willingly. The action does not need to be necessarily intended to break the law, hurt someone else, or gain an advantage on the respective person.
Reasonably Knew or Knew that the Alleged Victim was a Peace Officer
Finally, for one to be guilty of battery against a peace officer, they must have reasonably understood that the alleged victim is a peace officer. For the prosecutor to establish this aspect, he or she must consider the following:
If the peace officer has an official uniform
If the official clearly announced his or her official status to you
Whether the peace officer had a marked official vehicle such as an ambulance or a police car
Difference Between Misdemeanor and Felony Battery on a Peace Officer
Typically, a misdemeanor or felony battery applies in every case related to the battery. However, there is a significant difference between the two, based on how the action was performed. Felony battery must consider aggravated action and injuries to the victim, whereas a misdemeanor battery includes a simple act that probably led to a minor injury.
Please note, minor injuries include a situation that hurts the feeling of an alleged victim, whether it was done directly or indirectly.
With that in mind, here are examples of aggravated battery.
Striking another person with a dangerous object or weapon
A battery that results in a temporary disfigurement
A battery that leads to permanent disfigurement or any other type of severe physical injury
The dangerous weapon might include objects such as knives, rock, brick, or a steel-toed boot. Examples of severe physical injuries include injuries that seriously affect a body organ such as the limb or cause disfigurement of the face or any other part of the body.
Difference between Battering a Peace officer and Resisting Arrest
Both resisting arrest and battering a peace officer count as a single offense. This means that they are charged together. In an example where one spits on an officer but does not resist arrest, such a situation will be charged under Penal Code 243(b) rather than resisting arrest.
Penalties for Battery on a Peace Officer
The sentences that apply in battering a peace officer vary based on the severity of the situation. In a simple battery offense that does not involve any injury, the defendant is punished by:
County jail sentence for a maximum of one year
Fine that does not exceed $2,000
Charges under subdivision (h), section 1170, which includes imprisonment for sixteen months, two years or three years
In a felony charge, such an offense is punishable as follows:
Imprisonment in state prison for sixteen months, two years or three years
2,3,4 years of state imprisonment if the official sustained severe bodily injuries
A maximum fine of $10,000
Imprisonment and fine
Sentencing Under Penal Code 1170(h)
California Penal Code 1170(h) mandates specific felons to serve their sentence in county jail rather than in the state prison. The statute is not specific on the time that the judge should sentence the offender but offers options of 16 months, two years, or three years. In most cases, the judge usually decides on two years, which is the middle term of the three options. The higher or lower term is determined depending on the mitigating or aggravating circumstances.
For one to be eligible for Penal Code 1170(h), the following consideration must apply:
The defendant must have a prior or current felony conviction
The defendant must not have a previous or current violent felony sentence
The defendant is not a registered sex offender
The defendant must not be sentenced with a felony or enhancement of an aggravated theft
Condition for Misdemeanor Probation
Since misdemeanor probation is a possible sentence in battery on a peace officer, it is essential to learn a few things about it. Misdemeanor probation is a period that an offender spends outside the court, in which he or she must comply with certain conditions. If the defendant fails to conform to those conditions, the judge can revoke the probation and require the offender to return to jail.
Judges have discretion when deciding on the conditions necessary for misdemeanor probation. However, the basic guidelines for such terms are as follows:
They must be fitting and proper to ensure that justice is upheld
They should be logically associated with the offense
In that case, the common conditions that apply in summary probation are as follows:
Payment of the fines and restitution of the victim
Participate in an individual or group therapy
Seek reasonable employment
Subjective to restraining orders
Possible Legal Defenses For Battery on a Peace Officer
Once you are prosecuted in a court of law, you should be inclined to hire a professional criminal attorney. For an attorney to help you in your case, he or she must employ relevant legal defenses to help in reducing the possible penalties or getting an acquittal. Here are some of the possible defenses that your attorney can use.
Self-defense is a suitable defense that can help you win your case. It applies if the following aspects are true:
You had a reasonable belief that someone else was in immediate danger of unlawful touching or suffering bodily injury
You had a reasonable idea that the use of force against the peace officer was necessary to defend yourself against the danger
You did not use more than a reasonable force that is considered suitable to protect yourself against any danger
Please note, mere words cannot help you in justifying your alleged battery on a peace officer. Therefore, you need to have substantial proof of your self-defense if you want it to stand as an eligible legal defense. Self-defense can also apply when you reasonably believed that someone else was in imminent danger.
The Peace Officer was Not On Duty
As described above, the battering of a peace officer does not count to be eligible if the official was not performing his or her official duties. An officer is not described as performing an official function in the following circumstances:
When one is unlawfully detaining or arresting someone
When the officer is engaged in police brutality
If the official is involved in an unlawful search or seizure
If the official is participating in a racial profiling
The Act was Not Willful
Although you had no intention of harming someone, you should have acted willfully to be guilty of the offense. For instance, if you are physically uncomfortable due to the handcuffs placed on you and accidentally struck a police officer, such a situation does not count as willful. This is also referred to as an accident.
False accusations are common when a peace officer has something against you. Therefore, the peace officer can accuse you of battery, whereas there is nothing behind your engagement. For this kind of argument to work, you must have a suitable attorney who can help in showing consistency of events that shows that the accusation was false.
Duress is a vigorous action of violence, constrain, or threats to bear someone against his or her will. In this case, the alleged victim should use violence, threats, or restrictions to ensure that you react by battering him or her. In most cases, coercion through a family member usually forces one to give in to the demands. Your attorney must prove that the peace officer used force for this legal defense to be considered eligible.
Coercion is different from duress since it involves persuasion rather than force. The peace officer probably would have blackmailed you to ensure that you engage in the battery. Your attorney should prove that your action resulted from coercion to make this argument eligible for your case.
Intoxication does not usually work as a legal defense. However, if the intoxication was unintentional, the court might consider such a situation as a credible legal defense. The court will argue that you were not in a position of making a reasonable decision out of your intoxicate circumstances, hence no need to continue with the prosecution. However, your attorney must provide relevant proof that shows that your intoxication was not voluntary.
Crimes Related to Battery on a Peace Officer in California
Several crimes are closely associated with battery on a peace officer. These crimes are as follows:
Simple Battery: Penal Code 242
A simple battery is defined as touching anyone willfully or unlawfully, whether the target person was a peace officer or not.
This kind of offense is a misdemeanor and attracts the following penalties:
Fine that can amount to $2,000
County jail sentence for a maximum of six months
If you are charged under Penal Code 243 (b) or (c), and there is no substantial evidence that the peace officer was on official duty, your attorney can make a plea bargain to have your charges reduced to simple battery.
Penal Code 243(d): Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injuries
Under Penal Code 243(d), it is an offense to inflict serious bodily injury on anyone, including a peace officer.
The definition of severe bodily injury is a situation that causes serious impairment of the physical condition of another person. This includes broken bones or concussion.
A battery that causes serious bodily injury is a wobbler, meaning that it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. If charged as a felony, the possible penalties include imprisonment for two, three, or four years.
If you face an allegation of causing serious bodily injury on a peace officer, the prosecutor might decide to prosecute you under Penal Code 243(d) or Penal Code 243(c)(2). Since a felony offense of causing serious bodily injury on a peace officer attracts a longer prison term, the prosecutor is likely to choose Penal Code 243(d). However, your attorney should try to reduce your prison term by negotiating for prosecution under Penal Code 243(c)(d).
Resisting Arrest: Penal Code 148
Under Penal Code 148, it is an offense to resist or obstruct a police officer from arresting you willfully. It also applies when one resists, delays, blocks a peace officer, or an emergency medical expert when performing an official duty.
Resisting arrest is a misdemeanor and carries the following penalties:
County jail sentence for a maximum of a year
A maximum fine of $1,000
Your attorney can bargain for resisting arrest rather than have you prosecuted under Penal Code 243(b) or (c). However, this does not entirely dismiss your criminal record but will be a lesser charge.
Sightseeing at the Scene of an Emergency: Penal Code 402(a)
Under Penal Code 402(a), it is offensive to stop at an emergency for sightseeing. The offense becomes eligible if you stayed at a scene of an emergency and obstructed the performance of a peace officer on duty. Some of the instances that explain such a situation include:
Parking your vehicle at an obstructive range that will not provide enough room for paramedics to pull out a stretcher
Bumping into a peace officer to get pictures of a scene of the accident
Sightseeing at the scene of an emergency is a misdemeanor and attracts a maximum of six months in county jail. If you are charged with battery on a peace officer, your attorney can possibly bargain to have your charges reduced to sightseeing at the scene of an emergency, depending on the facts of your case.
How to Choose a Reliable Criminal Attorney
Since you are aware of some common facts related to the battery on a peace officer, you should now learn how to choose a reasonable criminal attorney. Picking a good attorney will increase the possibility of winning your case. Here are a few considerations that you need to make.
Conduct a Candidate Interview
One of the best ways that you can determine the legal capacity of an attorney is through an interview. Most attorneys are willing to provide a free initial consultation, which you should use to learn about them. Here are a few questions that you should pose:
How experienced is the attorney with matters related to your cases?
For how long has the attorney been in practice?
What is the track record of their success?
What percentage of their cases have they dedicated to handling cases similar to yours?
Who else is involved in your case, and how much will be the total charges?
How much time will the attorney dedicate to your case?
Please note, the fact that an attorney has higher charges does not necessarily mean that they can offer excellent services. Also, an attorney with rock bottom fee signals inexperience or incompetence. Therefore, you should evaluate your meeting and check whether the attorney meets the expectations that you have.
Conduct a Background Check
Once you have met possible candidates, you can continue to conduct a background check. Professional attorneys must have online reviews on different platforms. Therefore, you can use them to determine whether the attorney reflects what you had gathered from the initial interview.
Also, you should check whether the attorney has a good standing through his or her bar membership. You should expect a listing of all attorneys in California and check whether your target attorney has any disciplinary cases with the bar.
Consult other Attorneys
If you have a couple of attorney friends, they would be the best option to determine whether a particular attorney matches your expectations. They are well familiar with their fellow attorneys and would give an honest review of their capacity. Consulting other attorneys will help you get detailed information such as practice habits, reputation, competence level, and lawyer’s ethics, which is not easy to find online.
Find a San Diego Criminal Attorney Near Me
It is hard to go through a criminal case all by yourself. There are many legal aspects that you probably do not know and can end up affecting your case. Therefore, it is recommendable to seek help from a professional criminal attorney if you want to win your case or have the possible penalties reduced. If you are looking for excellent legal services in the San Diego area, get in touch with the San Diego Criminal Attorney today at 619-880-5474. We will evaluate the battery charges leveled against you and craft a suitable defense strategy.