Battery on a Peace Officer

The crime of battery is, in itself, a grave offense in the state of California. The law does not allow any person to touch another person in an offensive manner without their consent. If Battery is committed on a protected officer, the offense will get even more severe, attracting a longer jail term and more fines. The offender could also get a felony conviction if there are aggravating factors surrounding their case.

At Darwish Law, we have excellent skills and vast experience in handling all manners of criminal offenses. If you are facing arrest for Battering a Police Officer, we could help you fight the charges for a fair ruling. We can plan a strong defense for you, which could compel the court to either drop or reduce your charges. 

Legal Definition of Battery of a Protected Officer

California battery laws are under Section 242 of the state's penal code. Generally, Battery is defined as illegally and willfully using violence or excess force on another person. A battery charge will still stand even if the victim did not suffer any injuries. A battery charge is enough to turn your life upside down, especially if you get convicted. It is, therefore, advisable to take time to understand battery charges better, to determine the best way forward out of your situation.

California Battery of a Police/Protected Officer is a much more severe form of California Battery offense and is under Section 243(b) & 243(c) of California Laws. This law is meant to safeguard all protected officials and peace officers against aggressive treatment by the members of the public while they are performing their duties. A person is said to have violated California Legal Code 243 if they knew or should have known that the person they were touching in an offensive manner was a protected officer and that he/she was performing his/her duties.

For a person to be found guilty of this offense, there are specific facts, which are the elements of this crime that the prosecutor must prove in court beyond a reasonable doubt. These are:

  • That the defendant unlawfully and willfully touched another person in an offensive or harmful manner
  • That the person was a peace/protected officer who was performing his/her duties
  • That the defendant was well aware or should have reasonably known that the person was a police/protected officer who was involved in the execution of their duties.

The elements of this crime bring out the actual meaning of the crime of battery against a peace/police officer. To understand the offense even further, let us look in detail at the various terms or phrases that are in this definition:

A Peace/Protected Officer

California Code 243 is exclusively used to prosecute battery offenders who have committed the crime against a peace/protected officer. These are officers who work for police agencies, and their work entails maintenance of peace and law & order. Some of the officers that are in this section of the law include the following:

  • Police officers
  • Officers at the state’s highway patrols
  • Officers working with the sheriff departments
  • Transit police, for instance, those who work for BART system
  • Harbor or Port police

Law enforcement officers who work on a casual or part-time basis as private security officers are included in this list, too, provided that they are policemen in uniform and are performing their duties as peace officers. The state's laws against Battery on Police Officers also spread to other public officers and professionals who may not be working as police officers. They are, for instance:

  • Custodial officers
  • Lifeguards
  • Firefighters
  • Emergency paramedics and medical technicians
  • Custody assistants
  • Traffic officers
  • Process servers
  • Security officers
  • Code implementation officers
  • Search & rescue members
  • Animal control officers
  • Nurses or doctors who provide emergency medical treatment
  • Employees working in the probation department

An Officer Executing his/her Duties

You can only be found guilty of California Code 234 if you committed the crime of Battery against any peace officers while he/she is in the course of their duty. Example: Luke is a bar patron in a local bar where Tim often visits with his friends. One night, Tim gets into a dispute with Luke, which ends up with Tim striking Luke hard across the face. Luke works as a transit officer, which qualifies him as a protected officer. However, since he wasn’t on duty as a police officer on the night of this incident, Tim will not be charged with battering a protected officer. He, however, can be charged with California's simple Battery.

If such an offense was committed against a police officer, who was trying to arrest a couple of angry protesters, the person who commits the crime can be charged with Battery on a police officer.

Touching in an Offensive or Violent Manner

The underlying meaning of California battery, including battering a protected officer, is an offensive or forceful touch that is illegally committed against another person. It will include any form of contact, however slight it is, as long as it is committed in an angry or rude manner. Note that the touch in itself doesn’t have to include any form of pain or cause an injury.

Touching a police officer in an angry or offensive manner is quite common, especially for people who try to resist arrest. If you have been caught driving under the influence or in possession of dangerous drugs, you might get into an argument with the arresting officer to the point of pushing him/her away when they get close to arresting you. This action could see you facing serious battery charges even if you did not cause the officer any pain.

Note that battering a protected officer could also include offensively or violently touching something that is strictly connected or attached to them. It may consist of the clothes the officer has on or their bag.

Willfully

The illegal touch on the peace officer must have been done willfully for the offense to hold. As used in this case, willfully demonstrates that the defendant had acted on purpose or willingly. It doesn’t mean that he/she anticipated breaking the law, hurt the officer or gain an advantage over the officer

The Defendant was Aware or Should have been Informed that the Person was a Police Officer

Again, you can only be guilty of this offense if you knew or should have been aware that the person you were battering was a peace/protected officer. To prove that the defendant committed the crime against a person they knew was a protected officer; the court will consider such factors as:

  • Whether or not the peace officer was in his/her uniform
  • Whether or not the protected officer identified him/herself and his/her position to the defendant
  • Whether or not the officer was driving a vehicle that was marked to indicate his/her duty as a protected officer. It could have been a police vehicle or an ambulance.

Penalties in California for Battering a Protected Officer

A primary case of battering a police officer is a misdemeanor in the state of California. Some of the punishments a defendant is likely to face if charged with a misdemeanor include:

  • Misdemeanor probation
  • A maximum of one year in jail
  • Fines of not more than $2000

You qualify for misdemeanor probation if you are a low-risk offender and the court believes that you could benefit from the probation.  If you are put on probation, you serve part or your entire sentence out of jail

If, however, you caused the officer an injury, your penalties will increase. An injury, in this case, means a physical or bodily injury that will require medical treatment.  However, the injury will not be considered if the officer had sought medical help unnecessarily.

Example: If an attack on a protected officer left the officer with bruises and pain on his/her hands, which the officer sought medical help for their offender could face more penalties for battering the officer and causing him/her injuries. This would happen so even if the officer did not have to take days off work.

When Battery on protected officer results in a physical injury, California courts will convict the offense as a felony or misdemeanor as it is a wobbler offense. The defendant will either be charged with a felony or misdemeanor, subject to the following:

  • Their criminal history
  • The circumstances surrounding their case, which may include the seriousness of the injuries suffered by the officer

If convicted as a California misdemeanor, the offense of battering a protected officer and causing him/her injuries will carry the same misdemeanor penalties listed above. However, since there is an injury involved, the fines the defendant will have to pay will be increased to a maximum of $10,000, especially if the offense was committed against a police/peace officer.

If, on the other hand, the defendant gets a felony conviction, here are the likely penalties he/she can get for their actions:

  • Felony probation
  • A jail term of sixteen months, two or three years
  • A maximum fine of $10,000

Possible Legal Defenses for California Battering a Police Officer

As mentioned above, penalties for battering a protected officer can be grave, leaving you spending more time in jail and paying hefty penalties. For that reason, you need to fight the charges, with the support of a competent criminal defense lawyer. An experienced attorney will advise you, guide you through the legal process after your arrest, and plan an effective defense that could see your charges dropped or reduced to more lenient charges. The good thing is that several defense strategies could be used to fight California Code 243 charges. Some of these are:

  1. You were Acting in Defense of Self or Another Person

Your attorney could argue that the reason you acted forcefully or violently against the protected officer was that you were defending yourself or another person. This defense will apply if you had a good reason to believe that you or another person was in the looming danger of sustaining a physical injury in the hands of the officer. The court will also want to know if you thought that the use of immediate force at that time was essential to defend yourself or that other person from that danger. Lastly, the amount of force you must have used at the time should not have been more than needed to defend yourself against the officer.

  1. Your Action was not Willful

California Legal Code 243 requires a person to have acted willfully against a protected officer. If your actions were not willful, then the court will not find you guilty of the offense. You will not have acted willfully if you accidentally touched a protected officer in an offensive manner. For instance, you may have been uncomfortable when the officer tried to put you in the backseat of a patrol car, and in the process of adjusting yourself, you may have struck the officer accidentally.

  1. The Protected Officer was not on Duty

An officer is on duty is one of the requirements of this crime, without which a person may not be guilty of the offense. If you got into a brawl with an officer while he/she is off duty, you might be charged with simple battery but not for battering a protected officer.

Find a Santa Ana Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

Protected officers are a special class of people whose duty is the maintenance of peace, law, and order. Offending such an officer in any way is treated as a severe offense in the state of California, especially if the officer was in the course of performing their duties. Cases of battery on protected officers are some of the cases we handle at Darwish Law. Our services are geared towards ensuring that justice is served in the end. If you are facing battery charges in Santa Ana, get in touch with us at 714-887-4810 today.