Under the California Penal Code 243 (b) and Penal Code 243 (c), it is unlawful to commit battery against a peace officer. You may face battery charges if you willfully and unlawfully use force or violence against another individual. If you direct the force or violence against a peace officer or another protected person. You are particularly guilty if you batter a peace officer while he/she is in the course of performing their duties. The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney can help you fight battery on a peace officer charges.
Overview of Battery on a Peace Officer
For charges under California Penal Code 243 (b) and Penal Code 243 (c), the prosecutor has to prove several elements. For instance, it must be evident that at the time you committed the battery, you were aware, or you should have reasonably known that the victim was a peace officer or a protected officer. You are only guilty if you attack a peace officer in the course of performing his/her duties. For example, if you attack a peace officer in an entertainment establishment and you were not aware of the person's status as a peace officer, you cannot face these charges.
Who is a Peace Officer?
The California Penal Code 243 outlines the persons that qualify as peace officers, and they include:
- Police or law enforcement officers
- Emergency medical technicians (EMTs), ER doctors, and nurses
- Lifeguards and search and rescue personnel
- Fire Fighters
- Traffic Police
- Animal Control personnel
- Custodial Officers
- Officers in Sheriff Department
- California Highway Patrol Officers
- Transit Police
- Harbor or Port Police
- Employees of the Probation Department
- Code Enforcement Officers
- Search and Rescue Members
If a police officer is working as a part-time or a private guard, he/she still qualifies as a peace officer. This is as long the peace officer is in his/her uniform and is involved in performing official duties.
You might face battery charges even if you did not physically attack a peace officer. California law defines battery as touching another person in a violent or offensive manner. Therefore, you can face charges for slightly touching a peace officer in an angry or offensive way. The touch does not have to inflict physical pain or injury to attract charges under Penal Code 243 PC.
For example, a traffic officer stops John's vehicle as she suspects that John is driving under the influence of alcohol. When John opens the vehicle's door, the officer holds John's hand in an attempt to pull him out of the car. John pushes the officer away. John might face battery on a peace officer charges even if he did not cause any pain or physical harm to the traffic police. As long as the prosecutor proves that John pushed the officer in a rude or angry manner, he may face charges.
Battery on a peace officer also includes offensively touching an object that is closely connected or attached to the peace officer. These objects may consist of the clothes a peace officer is wearing or a bag the peace officer is carrying. The California law does not clearly define objects closely connected to a peace officer.
To face battery on a peace officer charges, it must be clear that you commit the offense willfully or on purpose. Acting willfully does not imply that you intended to break the law, gain an advantage, or hurt another person. It means that you acted knowingly or on purpose. If your actions were because of an accident or a genuine mistake, you cannot be guilty of battery on a peace officer.
How to Identify a Peace Officer
The law outlines that you are guilty of battery on a peace officer if you knew or reasonably should have known that a person was a peace officer. If determining if you were aware that the victim of your actions was a peace officer, the court may consider some factors. For instance, the court may consider whether the victim was wearing his/her official uniform. The court may also consider whether the peace officer announced his/her status as a peace officer to you. The court may also consider whether the peace officer was driving a clearly marked vehicle, including ambulances, fire trucks, or police vehicles.
You may also identify a peace officer if the officer was wearing a badge or other credentials. If the officer was in the company of other peace officers, it is easy to identify him/her.
Penalties for Battery on a Peace Officer
A battery on a peace officer under California Penal Code 243(b) PC is a misdemeanor offense. The applicable penalties may include a summary or misdemeanor probation. This informal probation does not require the defendant to make regular visits to the probation office. The defendant does not have to schedule regular meetings with the probation officer. You may also serve jail time not exceeding one year in county jail. Other penalties may include fines not exceeding $2,000.
For battery on a peace officer offense under California Penal Code 243(c), you may face felony or misdemeanor charges. You may face felony charges if the battery on a peace officer or a protected person causes an injury. The law defines an injury as a physical injury that calls for professional medical treatment.
What If the Officer Does Not Seek Treatment
A victim does not have to seek medical treatment for you to face charges. As long as the injury is significant, you may face charges even if the victim opts not to seek medical treatment. It is important to note that you cannot face felony charges if a victim unnecessarily seeks medical treatment for injuries suffered. Therefore, an officer cannot pretend to have suffered significant injuries in order to implicate you. The court carefully assesses the injuries sustained and chooses to charge the defendant with misdemeanor or felony charges.
Battery on a peace officer under California Penal Code 243(c) is a wobbler under California law. You may face felony or misdemeanor charges for the offense. Whether you face felony or misdemeanor charges will depend on your criminal history. It also depends on the circumstances of the crime, including the extent of injuries the peace officer sustains. For a misdemeanor battery on a peace officer causing injuries, penalties include jail time of up to one year in county jail. The court may also recommend misdemeanor probation. The court may require you to pay a maximum fine of up to $10,000 if the victim of the battery causing injury is a peace officer other than another protected person.
For felony battery on a peace officer causing injuries, the applicable fines may include felony probation. Also known as, formal probation, felony probation entails regularly meeting with the probation officer. The defendant also has to make regular visits to the probation office. If you fail to honor the terms of probation, the court may revoke the probation and recommend jail time instead.
For felony charges, the appropriate jail time may range from sixteen months to two or three years. The defendant serves jail time in the county jail. The court may also require the defendant to pay a fine that does not exceed $10,000.
If you commit battery on a peace officer, you may face additional or alternative charges for other related offenses. For instance, if you successfully fight battery on a peace officer charges, you may face lesser alternative simple battery charges under California Penal Code 242 PC. Some of the related offenses include:
If you willfully and unlawfully touch another person whether a peace officer or not, you may face simple battery charges under California Penal Code 242 PC. Under California law, a simple battery is a misdemeanor offense. The penalties for simple battery may include jail time of up to six months in county jail. The court may also require you to pay fines not exceeding $2,000.
If you are facing charges under PC 243(b) or PC 243(c) for battery on a peace officer, the court may reduce your charges to a simple battery. This mainly happens if the prosecutor has weak evidence against you. For instance, if the prosecutor cannot prove that you knew that the victim was a peace officer, the charges against you may be weak. Therefore, the prosecutor may find it prudent to reduce your charges to a simple battery through a plea bargain.
Battery Causing Serious Injury
Inflicting serious bodily injury on another person, including a peace officer may attract battery causing serious injuries charges under California Penal Code 243 (d) PC. The law defines serious injury as a serious impairment of a physical condition. A serious injury may include a concussion or broken bones.
If you commit a battery with a serious injury, you may face misdemeanor or felony charges. The charges faced will depend on the facts of the offense, including the extent of injury sustained by the victim. The charges you face will also depend on your criminal history. Repeat offenders are more likely to face felony charges, while first-time offenders are likely to face misdemeanor charges. For a felony charge, the applicable charges may include two, three, or four years in prison.
If your battery on a peace officer leads to serious injury, the prosecutor may choose to charge you with battery causing serious injury under PC 243(d). Alternatively, the prosecutors may choose to charge you with battery on a peace officer causing injury under PC 243(c) (2). In most cases, the prosecutors opt to charge defendants with battery on a peace officer causing injury under PC 243(c) (2). This is because the felony sentence for PC 243(d)-battery causing serious injury is longer.
Resisting arrest is a crime under California Penal Code 148(a)(1) PC. A defendant may face charges for resisting arrest as a plea bargain from a battery on a peace officer charges. You may face charges under Penal Code 148(a)(1) PC if you resist, delay, or obstruct a peace officer while he is performing his/her duties. You may also face charges if you delay or obstruct an emergency medical technician EMT from performing his/her duties.
Under California law, resisting arrest is a misdemeanor offense. The applicable charges for this offense may include jail time of up to one year in county jail. The crime may also attract a fine not exceeding $1,000.
The penalties for resisting an arrest are lower than penalties for misdemeanor battery on a peace officer or protected person.
To be guilty under Penal Code 148(a)(1) PC, the prosecutor has to prove that:
A peace officer, emergency medical technician, or a public officer was legally carrying out or attempting to carry out his/her duties. The prosecutor must further prove that you purposely delayed, obstructed, or hindered the officer from carrying out his/her duties. The prosecutor must also prove that you were aware or reasonably should have been aware that the person was a peace officer or an emergency worker.
Sightseeing at an Emergency
It is a criminal offense under the Penal Code 402(a) PC to sightsee at an emergency scene. You may face charges under Penal Code 402(a) PC if you stop or go to the scene of an emergency and hinder peace officers from carrying out their duties. If you impede the execution of tasks by emergency medical personnel, firefighters, and other emergency workers, you may face criminal charges.
To prove that you are guilty under Penal Code 402(a) PC, the prosecutor must prove that:
You visited or stopped at the scene of an emergency. The prosecutor must further prove that you stayed in order to view the activities of the peace officers or emergency workers. It must be evident that you stopped or visited the scene at a time when the peace officers and emergency workers were actively involved in saving lives or property. The prosecutor must prove that your presence impeded the peace officers' performance of emergency duties. Finally, the prosecutor has to prove that your presence at the scene of the emergency was not part of your employment duties.
Under California law, sightseeing an emergency is a misdemeanor offense. The penalties for the offense may include misdemeanor probation. You may also serve up to one year in county jail. The court may also require you to pay a fine that does not exceed $1,000.
You can fight charges under Penal Code 402(a) PC by asserting that you did not intentionally stop at a scene of an emergency. You can further explain that you did not have the intention to watch how the emergency or the public officials responded to the emergency. You can also assert that your actions did not impede the peace officers' ability to execute their duties. Being present at the scene of an emergency is not an offense as long as your actions do not prevent the emergency workers or the peace officers from doing their jobs.
Common Defenses for Battery on a Peace Officer Charges
With the help of a criminal defense attorney who fully understands California's Battery laws, you can fight battery on a peace officer charges. With the advice of an attorney, you can weigh your defense options and assert certain legal defenses against battery on a peace officer charges. Common defenses include:
Not Aware the Victim was a Peace Officer
According to California law, you cannot face battery on a peace officer charges unless you knew, or reasonably should have known that a person was a peace officer. In your defense, your attorney can assert that you were not aware that the person was a peace officer or a protected person. For instance, if the victim was not clothed in full uniform at the time of the attack, you may assert that you were not aware that he/she was a peace officer. Another way of identifying a peace officer is through a marked vehicle, including an ambulance or a police car. If the peace officer was not operating a marked vehicle, it might be hard to recognize his/her status as a peace officer.
Self-defense or Defense of Someone Else
You can also defend yourself if you prove that you acted in self-defense or defense of another person. In order to prove that you were acting in self-defense or defense of others, several elements must be clear. It must be evident that you believed that either you or another person was in danger of suffering bodily injury or in danger of an unlawful touch. You must also prove that you believed that by using force on a peace officer or another protected person, you would prevent the imminent injury or danger from occurring. It must also be clear that you did not use more force than was necessary to defend against the injury or danger.
The legal defense of self-defense or defense of another person cannot hold if the peace officer only used offensive words. Words alone cannot justify your actions of battery on a peace officer. Under California law, you can only claim to have acted in self-defense if you or another person was in danger of unlawful touch or physical injury.
In instances where a law enforcement officer uses excessive or unreasonable force on a defendant, the defendant can state that he/she acted in self-defense. Self-defense may also apply if a law enforcement officer in carrying out an unlawful arrest on a defendant.
The Peace Officer Was Not Performing Official Duties
You can also fight battery on a peace officer charges by asserting that the peace officer was not performing his/her duties at the time of the battery. You can only be guilty of battery on a peace officer for actions you take when the officer is in the course of performing his/her duties. You could use this defense strategy if the law enforcement officer was engaged in police brutality. A peace officer is not performing official duties if he/she is unlawfully arresting or detaining a person, engaging in illegal racial profiling, or engaging in unlawful seizure or search.
Battery on a peace officer who is not performing his/her duties may not attract charges for battery on a peace officer. However, you may still face charges under California Penal Code 242 PC for simple battery.
You Did Not Act on Purpose
For you to face charges under PC 243(b) or PC 243(c), it must be evident that you willfully committed the offense of battery on a peace officer. This defense strategy is mainly applicable to defendants often accused of battery on a peace officer during an arrest. A peace officer may get hurt in the course of an arrest; the defendant may assert an accidental defense in such a case.
You can assert that you were nervous as you were pushed into the back of the police car and you accidentally pushed or hit a police officer. You may also point out that as the law enforcement officer placed you in handcuffs, you accidentally struck him or her. These occurrences are common, and law enforcement officers often accuse detainees of battery on a peace officer, yet most of the detainee's actions are accidental.
If officers find a criminal suspect particularly offensive, they may fabricate injuries and claim to be victims of battery on a peace officer. It is common for aggressive criminal suspects to face false accusations of battery on a peace officer. If you are a victim of a false accusation of battery, your attorney can help prove your case in court.
It is common for defendants to defend themselves by asserting that they are victims of mistaken identity. You can declare that another person other than you committed the battery on a peace officer offense. However, you must have enough evidence to support this defense and prove to the court that another person committed the battery crime. This may apply if a peace officer gets hurt when trying to control a mob protest. With so many protestors present at the time of the battery, you may point out that another protestor other than you that hurt the peace officer.
Contact a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
If you or a loved one is currently facing battery on a peace officer charges, it would be wise to seek legal representation. An experienced attorney can help you come up with a good defense strategy to fight the charges. The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney is committed to handling your case to the end. Contact us at 310-564-2605 and speak to one of our attorneys today.