Battery on a Peace Officer

Any harassment, battery, or assault exacted on a government official, such as a police officer, a federal official, or an officer of the courts is treated with zero tolerance. In other words, do not be surprised to face the harshest punishments if or when you expect to be convicted.

Getting charged with assault and battery, California Penal Code 242, is a difficult enough battle to face. For most simple battery cases, there are misdemeanor penalties. However, when certain aggravating factors are involved the case becomes a wobbler. This means the prosecution can decide to pursue felony charges. 

A battery offense on your permanent criminal record will have a significant impact on the rest of your life. It can have adverse effects on job prospects, higher education opportunities, housing, and gun rights. That said, facing the offense of battery on a peace officer, Penal Code 243(b)  and 243(c) without help can be extremely challenging. One of the best things to do is find a criminal defense lawyer who knows how to fight on your behalf.

Let’s take a closer look into how California defines what it means to commit a battery on a peace officer and the resulting consequences.

Defining California’s “Battery On A Peace Officer” Law

California defines battery on a peace/police officer under Penal Code 243(b) and 243(c). It outlines:

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Willfully and unlawfully touching another person,

Willfully doing something means you are acting purposely.

Touching another individual without their express permission in order to annoy, harm, or injure them is considered unlawful.

This person is a police officer or other federal or state-protected officials/persons,

Under this law, other individuals protected include;

Animal control officers,

Custodial officers,

Code enforcement officers,

Doctors providing emergency medical care,

EMTs (emergency medical technicians) or paramedics,

Firefighters,

Lifeguards,

Nurses providing emergency medical care,

Probation Department Employees,

Process Servers,

Search and Rescue officials,

Security Officers, and

Traffic Police.

The unlawful touching was in a harmful or offensive manner,

Using force, violence, or harmful/offensive touching is considered battery, no matter how slight. Even if no pain or injuries were caused as a result, you could still be charged with battery. The touching can be done directly (using one’s physical body/bare hands) or indirectly (using objects).

While the officer was working/engaging in their duties.

The alleged victim was on the job, for instance, a traffic cop gets shoved while issuing a parking ticket.

For simple battery, you will most likely face charges for Penal Code 243(b), which carries misdemeanor consequences. However, if the alleged victim was injured in the encounter and required medical treatment, you will face charges under Penal Code 243(c).

That said, the alleged victim is not required nor do they have to seek medical attention for any injuries they sustained. A medical professional needs to simply recommend they seek medical care as a result of the battery.

If the alleged victim suffered any injury(not considered serious/severe) it becomes a PC 243(c) offense, raising the case to a wobbler. A California wobbler means the prosecution can decide to bring either misdemeanor or felony charges against the accused. 

Closely Related Offenses

Penal Code 242, simple battery;

This law is nearly the same as outlined above, however, the main difference is the alleged victim is another individual and not an on-duty police officer or other protected official. “Simple battery” means it is illegal to use force, violence, or to touch another person in a harmful or offensive manner.  

This is often charged instead of PC 243(b) and 243(c), battery on a peace officer because the alleged victim was not on duty at the time. The defendant may have hit a protected official, but if they were not performing their duties at the time of the incident, the offense can be lessened to a simple battery offense.

Penal Code 243(d), battery causing serious bodily injury;

Similar to the previous statutes, this law covers the act of battery, however, it specifically focuses on whether the victim suffered any serious bodily injury. It is a crime to willfully touch another individual in a harmful or offensive manner and that touching resulted in the alleged victim suffering severe bodily injury. This excludes self-defense situations.

It’s not unheard of for a defendant to face multiple charges under these laws. Not taking it seriously or attempting to go the fight alone could really be a difficult, uphill battle. Immediately finding an effective criminal defense lawyer should be at the top of your to-do list.

Associated/Similar Offenses

Penal Code 148(a)(1), resisting arrest;

Attempting to delay, resist, or obstruct a peace officer or EMT while they are performing their duties is a crime.

This is one of the most common offenses that are charged along with battery on a peace officer. Since being arrested isn’t necessarily a calm encounter, being overly jittery, nervous, and clumsy can be misconstrued as something more serious. If you are facing charges for resisting arrest and battery on the arresting officer, do not hesitate to find an effective legal defense team.

Penal Code 415, disturbing the peace;

This law makes it illegal to fight in a public space, challenge someone to a fight in a public place, using offensive words in a manner that could provoke violence, or willfully and maliciously disturbing someone by being unreasonably loud and/or noisy.

Disturbing the peace is another offense that is sometimes charged with battery on a police officer or other protected official. For instance, Ian went to the bar and became intoxicated. He went outside and started singing as loudly as he could, often times screaming at the top of his lungs. It was the middle of the night and the police were called.

Ian did not stop his obnoxious noise level even while the officers were arresting him. In the process of getting placed in the squad car, Ian accidentally bumps his elbow and immediately blames the cop. As he gets into the backseat of the squad car, he kicks the officer in the shin.

On top of charges for PC 415, disturbing the peace, Ian will face charges for battery on a police officer. Even though the kick did not do any serious damage, it did hurt the officer and Ian did willfully kick him.

What Does The Prosecution Have To Do?

Being found guilty of battery on a police officer, Penal Code 243(b) and 243(c), means the prosecution was successfully able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that all the facts of the case took place. This is referred to as the elements of the crime, which are:

Elements of the Crime

  • The defendant willfully and unlawfully touched a police officer or other protected official in a violent, harmful, or offensive manner,
  • They did so while the peace officer or other official was performing their duty,
  • The defendant knew or should have reasonably known the alleged victim was a police officer or other official simply performing their duties.
  • Also, if the alleged victim sustained any injury that needed medical attention as a result of the battery, they could face charges for PC 243(c).

Who Can Be Charged?

Here are some examples to get an idea of who can be charged with Penal Code 243(b) and 243(c), battery on a peace officer or protected official.

As Sam is getting arrested for a DUI, he became belligerent and stumbles, cursing as he falls to the ground. When the officer attempts to help him up, Sam swats his hand away with enough force to knock him to the ground.

In addition to the DUI offense, Sam could face charges for battery on a police officer. Even if the officer did not get hurt, the fact that Sam was angry and belligerent are enough to face battery charges.

Jesse is being loaded into an ambulance after a car wreck he was responsible for causing. Scared and wanting to run away before getting to a hospital, he shoves the paramedics aside and tries to run.

Jesse forcefully and unlawfully shoved them aside. He could be charged with battery on a paramedic (who is a protected official) while they were trying to perform their duty.

Mack went into the ER to seek help for a gunshot wound. When the nurses in the ER told him they would have to report it his wound to the authorities, as their policy states, Mack got angry. He rolled off the bed, pushed it against the nurses and ran for the exit. The bed did bump into the nurses, but neither of them was hurt.

Although Mack did not physically touch the nurses himself, using the bed to do so is enough to charge him with battery on a nurse who is considered a protected official under Penal Code 243(b).

Legal Defense

Fighting charges for violating California’s battery law is less overwhelming when you have the help of a criminal defense lawyer. Not only will they have experience in dealing with such cases, but they also understand what the best possible legal defense would be concerning the details of your situation.

The following are some legal defenses used to fight charges against Penal Code 243(b) and 243(c), battery on a police officer or other protected official.

Did you know the alleged victim was an on-duty peace officer?

In order to be charged with assault and battery on a peace officer under PC 243(b) and 243(c), the alleged victim must be on the clock, in other words, performing their duties. Also, the defendant would have had to know that this person was a police officer.

Example:

Tyler was drinking at a bar and minding his own business when Ed, a drunken patron started yelling at him. Ed got angry that Tyler was ignoring him and threw his beer bottle, which hit Tyler in the leg. It turned out Tyler was an off-duty cop.

Ed could face battery charges under Penal Code 242, however, it does not qualify as battery on a peace officer, PC 243(b) or 243(c), because Tyler was not hit while he was performing his duties.

Were you acting in self-defense?

If you were acting in self-defense of oneself or of another person, you would not be guilty of battery, regardless of who the alleged victim was. Your criminal defense attorney would be able to assert this defense only if several factors are met.

  • The defendant reasonably believed they or another individual was in immediate danger of getting hurt, seriously injured, or of unlawfully and/or offensively getting touched;
  • The force that was used is considered reasonable; and
  • The defendant reasonably believed their actions against a protected official or peace officer were necessary, under the circumstances.

Example:

Officer Ray came across his ex-wife, Skye, on a date with Ned. Jealous and angry, he approached the two of them and began yelling at her. When Skye got up to leave, Officer Ray grabbed her arm and attempted to drag her away. Ned came to her aid, grabbed Ray's arm and pushed him back.

In this case, Officer Ray is the aggressive party and technically committed battery on his ex-wife. There could a domestic violence offense on his part. Ned would not be guilty of PC 243(b) or 243(c), battery on a peace officer because he had reasonably believed that Skye was in imminent danger and felt his actions were necessary.

Are the charges an exaggeration?

False accusations do happen in battery cases, especially because no one has to suffer any actual physical harm or injury. When there is really no physical evidence, it all comes down to words. Unfortunately, sometimes the defendant’s argument may not be enough on their own.

The right criminal defense attorney will be able to figure out what options can be used against these allegations. It’s not unheard of for a peace officer to exaggerate the circumstances.

Example:

Dan was being arrested for shoplifting. Having never been caught before, his nerves got the best of him and he began feeling ill. As the arresting officer placed cuffs on him, Dan wretched, throwing his head back, accidentally head-butting the cop. While the officer nursed his forehead, Dan leaned over and vomited. Dan attempted to apologize while he was vomiting, but the officer was under the impression that Dan was resisting arrest on top of committing battery.

Although he did not intend on hurting the arresting officer, he did end up accidentally hurting him. However, an accident does not equate it with violating PC 243(b) or 243(c), battery of a peace officer.

Penalties

If convicted of simple battery on a police officer or protected official, Penal Code 243(b) and 243(c), it typically results in misdemeanor punishments and you will face;

 

Informal (summary) probation,

Up to two-thousand dollars in fines, and/or

Up to one year in the county jail.

 

Enhanced Penalties

When the battery allegedly results in an injury of the police officer, you face felony charges.

If convicted as a felony the punishments are;

 

Formal (felony) probation,

Possible fines of up to ten thousand dollars, and/or

16 months, 2, or 3 years in county jail.

            Time will be served under California’s realignment program.

Penalties for Closely Related and Associated Offenses

Penal Code 242, simple battery;

 

Misdemeanor;

As much as two thousand dollars in fines, and/or

Up to six months in the county jail.

Possible anger management courses.

 

Penal Code 243(d), battery causing serious injury;

 

Misdemeanor;

Informal (misdemeanor) probation,

Fines of up to two thousand dollars,

Anger management classes and/or counseling,

A ten-year restriction on acquiring or possessing a firearm.

 

Felony;

Formal (felony) probation,

As much as ten thousand dollars in fines,

2, 3, or 4 years in a California state prison,

Anger management classes and/or counseling,

A lifetime restriction on acquiring or possessing a firearm.

 

You would be responsible for restitution to the victim and any medical bills or financial hardships that resulted from your actions.

 

Penal Code 148(a)(1), resisting arrest;

 

Misdemeanor;

Fines of up to one thousand dollars, and/or

Up to one year in the county jail.

 

Penal Code 415, disturbing the peace;

 

Infraction;

A maximum fine of two hundred fifty dollars.

 

Misdemeanor;

Informal (summary) probation,

Up to four hundred dollars in fines, and/or

A possible ninety-day county jail sentence.

We Can Help

Anytime law enforcement or protected officials are harassed or assaulted, the courts tend to treat it seriously. If you or someone you know is facing such consequences, it’s time to contact a criminal defense lawyer.

The Law Offices of Anna R. Yum can deliver top-notch legal counsel and criminal defense. As a former prosecutor, Attorney Yum understands how complex it might be to fight against such serious accusations as violating California’s battery laws.

If, after reading this, you are still not sure about what your next steps should be, just call 619-233-4433 for a free consultation.

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