California law defines the crime of battery as the willful and unlawful infliction of violence or force on someone else.
Who that “someone else” is can make a big difference in the charges and penalties you might face if accused of battery. That’s because California law carves out special protections for certain groups of people in its assault and battery laws, and one of those groups is peace officers.
While a simple battery charge is a misdemeanor that can carry fines and a short county jail sentence, the crime of battery on a peace officer is far more serious. Depending on the facts of the case, battery on a peace officer in California can carry felony charges.
If you or someone you love has been accused of assault and battery on a peace officer in California, it’s important to speak with a skilled criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can review your case and work to build your defense.
What is battery on a peace officer?
Battery on a peace officer is defined in California Penal Code 243b and 243c. This defines “peace officers” as police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), California Highway Patrol, animal control, process servers, security guards, probation officers, lifeguards and paramedics.
In order to convict someone of battery on a peace officer, the prosecutor must prove the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The victim was a peace officer who was performing the duties of their role.
- The defendant willfully and unlawfully touched the victim in a harmful or offensive manner.
- When the defendant acted, they knew or should have reasonably known that the victim was a peace officer performing their duties.
It’s important here to note how broad these three elements are. By this definition, the slightest touching of a police officer can qualify as battery on a peace officer if it is done in an angry or rude way.
This also covers cases where a person causes an object or someone else to touch a peace officer. For example, throwing a bottle that hits a police officer can qualify as battery on a peace officer under PC 243b and 243c.
Penalties for battery on a peace officer
As mentioned above, battery on a peace officer is more serious than simple cases of battery. Its potential penalties depend on the facts of the case and the defendant’s criminal record.
For cases that don’t cause a physical injury to the officer, battery on a peace officer is a misdemeanor, punishable by:
- Up to a year in county jail
- Fines of up to $2,000
However, if the officer was injured in the incident, that’s when things get more complicated. Battery on a peace officer that produces a physical injury is a “wobbler,” meaning that it can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the facts of the case and the defendant’s criminal history.
As a felony, battery on a peace officer is punishable by:
- Up to three years in jail
- Fines of up to $10,000
Defenses against battery against a peace officer charges
There are a number of possible defenses that a person could use against battery on a peace officer charges. Some of the more common ones include:
- The victim was not actually performing their duties as a peace officer at the time of the battery.
- The defendant did not willfully touch the victim in a harmful or offensive manner.
- The defendant did not know or should not have reasonably known that the victim was a peace officer performing their duties.
When you are charged with battery against a peace officer, it’s important to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can review your case and help build your defense. An good attorney can help get the charges reduced or dismissed, and can provide invaluable guidance throughout the criminal justice process.
Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Robert M. Helfend has more than 30 years of experience defending the criminally accused. He has a proven track record of success in both state and federal courts, and is known for his aggressive and effective courtroom representation.
If you or someone you love has been charged with battery on a peace officer, assault on a peace officer, or any other crime, contact Robert M. Helfend today for a free consultation. You can reach him at 800-834-6434.