In California, the term "battery" refers to the act of touching someone in a way they perceive as offensive or harmful. A battery offense is usually charged as a misdemeanor, but if you commit battery against a police officer or other peace officers, the penalties are harsher. Battery on a peace officer might lead to felony charges that are punishable by hefty fines, and lengthy prison terms.
If you have been charged with battery on a peace officer in Riverside, CA, retaining the services of a reputable criminal defense attorney to help you fight the charges is crucial if you want to avoid the harsh penalties you will face when you are convicted. Our attorneys at the Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm will make every effort to help you obtain a favorable verdict. Our attorneys are familiar with California criminal laws and are committed to defending you.
Legal Differences Between Battery and Assault Under California Law
Whenever the phrase assault & battery is used, you might think of street clashes and altercations, however, the two offenses have distinct legal definitions. Each crime has its own set of characteristics, and you can execute one without committing the other. Here is a more in-depth look at the 2 offenses and what sets them apart.
Assault is defined as attempting and having the current ability to harm another individual by using violence or force, as defined by PEN 240. In addition, it involves making threats or behaving violently toward the other individual. For it to be considered an assault, an illegal act must be committed; however, mere physical interaction is not sufficient. Assault can take many forms, but it usually involves an overt or direct action that would make a sensible person fear for their safety.
Threats alone are not enough to constitute assault unless they are accompanied by actions that cause the victim to reasonably fear danger. You must also have a general intent to be convicted of assault, which means that you meant to commit the acts that constitute assault. As a result, even if you did not plan to damage someone specifically, you could face assault charges for acting in a way that is damaging to others. In addition, even intending to intimidate or scare someone is sufficient to bring assault charges.
Battery is defined by the California Penal Code 242 as the intentional and unlawful use of force or violence against another individual. Although people associate the word "battery" with violent assault and significant bodily harm, in California you will be convicted of battery even though your victim was unharmed. You can be charged with battery if you made contact with the victim offensively.
To convict you of a battery charge, the prosecution must show that you intentionally made contact with your victim unpleasantly or violently. The type of touching penalized under this law is harsh, aggressive, hostile, or insulting. In this context, willfully signifies that you did it on purpose and the event was not accidental. Touching can be done directly or by using an object to make contact.
The following are the key distinctions between battery and assault:
- Physical contact is not required for assault, however, contact is required for battery
- Battery is defined as the harmful or offensive touch with the victim, whereas assault is defined as the threat or intent to harm the individual
- Battery happens when you execute an attack, whereas assault happens when you intend to conduct battery
Battery on a Peace Officer Under California Penal Code 243 (b) and 243 (c)
Committing battery on a peace officer is illegal under PEN 243(b) & 243(c). When you use unnecessary force or violence against a peace officer while they are carrying out their duties, you could be charged with either PEN 243(b) or (c), based on if the peace officer was injured.
To convict you of battery on a peace officer as per PEN sections 243(b)/243(c), the prosecution needs to prove beyond a doubt that:
- You purposefully touched your victim
- You touched your victim in a way that was offensive or violent
- Your intended victim was a peace officer or any other protected individual performing his/her legal tasks
- You were aware, or logically should have been aware, that your victim was a peace officer executing his/her legal obligations
Who is a Peace Officer?
Any person working for a law enforcement body is considered a peace officer.
Police officers, California Highway Patrol officers, deputy sheriffs, port officers, transit cops, security guards, and anyone else in a police uniform undertaking peace officer tasks are all included in this class. Custodian officers, EMTs, paramedics, firefighters, probation officials, lifeguards, animal control officials, nurses, and doctors delivering medical services are among those who are protected under this law.
When is a Peace Officer Deemed to be "Performing His/Her Legal Obligations"?
To be prosecuted under Sections 243(b) & (c) of the California Penal Code, you must have assaulted the victim while they were performing their legal tasks.
For instance, if you had been engaged in an altercation with a police officer who was off duty in which you hit him or her, you cannot be indicted under this criminal code because he or she was not performing his or her legal duties as a peace officer.
In a Threatening or Offensive Manner
Even the slightest contact, if conducted in an inherently aggressive or unpleasant way, is considered offensive touching, regardless of whether it causes pain, injury, or harm. You could be convicted of battery on a peace officer when you smack a traffic police hand when he or she extends out his or her hand to grab your driving permit. Although the contact didn't cause the traffic police any pain, injury, or harm, you intended it to be violent and offensive.
It's also worth noting that the touch doesn't have to be physical. Any offensive or violent touching that is directly related to the purported victim, like clothes he/she had on or an item he/she is holding, is considered battery.
You "Willfully" Committed the Violent or Offensive Touching
To be considered a battery on a peace officer, the offensive touching must be done with intent. Willful implies that something is done purposefully. You didn't have to aim at breaking the law, injure the police, or hurt him or her. What's needed is that the unpleasant touching was done on purpose.
You were "Aware" that the Officer was a Peace Officer and that He was Performing His or Her Duties
When it comes to battery on a peace officer, you will be convicted if you were aware or should have sensibly been aware that that the victim was a peace officer or otherwise protected person. You will be charged with battery on a peace officer if the purported peace officer had his uniform on, if he/she made you aware of his/ her identity as a peace officer, or if he/she was operating in a labeled ambulance, police car, or another car that distinctly indicated his /her identity as a protected individual, you had proper understanding, should have been aware of his/her status.
Penalties for Battery on a Peace Officer
In California, battery on a peace officer is charged as a misdemeanor offense as per Penal Code 243(b). Battery on a peace officer charged as a misdemeanor is punishable by:
- You could face a maximum of 1 year in county jail
- Fines of up to $2,000
- You'd also be forced to spend half of your sentence in custody
- Take part in a batterer intervention program
- Community service
- Summary probation
- Both jail time and fines
You can be charged with a felony or a misdemeanor under Penal Code 243(c) when the peace officer is injured. You could still be convicted of battery on a peace officer with injury regardless of whether he or she received medical treatment.
If you are found guilty of a misdemeanor under Penal Code 243(c), you will face:
- Summary probation
- One year jail term
- Fines of up to $10,000
- Both jail time and fines
When you have been charged with a felony under Penal Code 243 (c):
- You might face a term of 16 months, two years, or 3 years in state prison
- Fines of up to $10,000
- You may also be mandated to serve half of your sentence in jail
- Formal probation
- Both jail time and fines
A sentence in either clause would also result in a 10 year or possibly lifetime bar on your right to possess a handgun.
Penal Code 243(b) or Penal Code 243(c) isn't a strike crime as per the Three Strikes Law. If you have been found guilty of Penal Code 243(b) or Penal Code 243(c), your occupational license will most likely be lost, suspended, or revoked. And if you're a non-US citizen residing in the U.S., you may suffer immigration penalties because it's a violent offense under federal law.
If certain elements are present, battery against a peace officer becomes a felony offense, and the sentence is increased to 4, 6, or 8 years in jail. The following are some of the exacerbating factors:
- A serious physical injury is sustained by the peace officer
- You perpetrated the crime to help street gangs
- When committing the crime, you flaunted or used a firearm or another lethal weapon
A "severe physical injury" is described as significant damage to the victim's physical condition, which includes, but is not limited to, concussions, loss of consciousness, bone fractures; prolonged loss or disfigurement of any body part or organ functioning, an injury needing significant suturing or leading to significant deformity.
Common Legal Defenses for Battery on a Peace Officer
Battery on a peace officer is a serious offense, and the consequences can be even worse if you're unable to successfully defend against the charges at trial. However, simply because someone has assaulted a protected individual does not guarantee that they'll be found guilty of the offense. Offenders are eligible to represent themselves in court, which indicates you can employ the best criminal defense lawyer in Riverside to assist you. An expert attorney will devote his or her time to thoroughly analyze the claimed offense to determine the best defense strategy for your matter.
The wonderful news is that the attorney can use a variety of legal defenses for your matter to make it difficult for the prosecution to create a strong case that will convict you. The prosecution may be presented with only two alternatives if you have a strong defense: offer a plea deal or dismiss the case entirely. These are among the defenses your attorney can employ:
You are entitled to employ force against someone else in California if you've had a reasonable cause to understand that you need to employ force to protect yourself from imminent harm. To put it another way, if you have been attacked, you have the freedom to protect yourself.
Concerning the risk of injury, the degree of force you used to defend yourself has to be appropriate. If someone hits you using their hand, for example, sensible reactions would suggest that you'd be capable of defending yourself by hitting back with your hands.
You should also have a reasonable belief that you're at risk of being injured. The urgency of the situation necessitates a quick response. It's not sufficient to say that someone had intended to harm you the next day to justify assaulting them today. You can't defend yourself against future danger.
You also don't have the right to employ lethal force unless you've been faced with it at that moment. This is comparable to the previous statements, in that lethal force can be employed only if the danger you are faced with is lethal. You have the right to utilize your firearm to fire back at someone who has a firearm and is firing at you.
However still, if you're the instigator of the altercation, you can't utilize self-defense afterward except if the victim intensified the scenario with extreme violence, or maybe if you retreated from the altercation, but your victim then continued to escalate the scenario by progressing with physical confrontation. It could be accomplished essentially by expressing that you do not wish to participate in the altercation. This means, even though you initiate a confrontation, you could be allowed to defend yourself. The defense of a 3rd party is another option under this clause. It's comparable to self, only you're "putting yourself in the shoes" of someone who has the right to protect themselves. The only exception is that you're defending the 3rd party under the similar circumstances outlined above.
You can use this as a legal defense to your battery accusation if the purported victim agreed to the bodily contact. You won't be found guilty of battery of a peace officer provided that the touch was allowed or welcomed.
You Acted Unintentionally, not Willfully
To be charged with a PC 243(b)/243(c) violation, you ought to have intentionally made contact with the officer. Assume Hannah is being detained by a law enforcement officer from the back. Hannah gets epileptic seizures as a result of a medical problem when she is stressed or upset. She gets a seizure when the police officer clasps her hands behind her back, and she strikes the officer. Hannah had no intention of contacting the office. Her seizure was prompted by the stress of her detention and constraint. As a result, Hannah didn't act deliberately and can't be convicted of the crime of battery on a peace officer.
The Peace Officer or Other Protected Party You Allegedly Assaulted was not Carrying Out His or Her Legal Responsibilities
You can't be convicted of battering a peace officer if he or she was not performing his/her obligations. Even though an officer wears his and her uniform and informs you that he/she is a protected person under the law, if he/she wrongfully detains or incarcerates you, chooses to commit brutality against you, infringes your 4th amendment constitutional rights by performing an illegal seizure or search, or engages in racial discrimination, he /she is not doing his/her legal obligations. Either of these actions indicates that the peace officer was not doing his/her duty lawfully.
You Were Unaware of the Victim's Identity
If an offender was unaware that his or her victim was a peace officer or had no way of recognizing that his or her victim was a peace officer, he/she can not be found guilty of battery on a peace officer charge. If the prosecution cannot demonstrate that you were aware that your alleged victim was a protected person, the charge may be dropped. It's worth noting that if adequate evidence is uncovered that you did conduct the offense, you might still be prosecuted with battery.
A False Accusation
If there was no battery, the offender wouldn't be prosecuted. The prosecution must confirm that the offense of battery occurred for you to be tried and convicted. This indicates there has to be proof that you acted unpleasantly or violently toward a peace officer on purpose and unlawfully.
A Case of Mistaken Identity
You may be falsely suspected of an offense like battery on a peace officer, particularly if you look like the person who perpetrated the offense. If this is the scenario, your lawyer would have to dig deep into the evidence to show the court that you're being misidentified for the criminal. The accusations will be withdrawn if the information presented is sufficient.
Other Related Offenses
There are 3 offenses associated with battery against a peace officer. These are some of them:
- Penal Code 243 (c), battery on a protected person
- Penal Code 69, obstructing an administrative office
- Penal Code 148, refusing arrest
Battery Against a Protected Person
Battery on a protected individual, as defined by PC 243 (c), is when an individual knowingly and illegally makes physical contact with a “protected individual” in an unpleasant way.
A "protected individual" is someone who has a status that is particularly mentioned in Penal Code 243 (c) terminology. Here are several examples:
- Custodial officials
- Process servers
- Animal control officials
- Traffic police
Remember that if you assault a peace officer/a protected individual with a lethal weapon, you may face further charges under both Penal Code 243 (c) and Penal Code 243 (c). According to PC 245 (a), it is an independent offense.
Resisting an Executive Officer
Defying an administrative officer, as defined by PC 69, is an offense in which individuals use intimidation or force to hinder executive officials from executing their responsibilities or obstruct executive officers from doing their legal tasks.
In contrast to Penal Code 243 (c), this law applies only to executive officials. An "executive officer" is a state employee who has the authority to exercise his or her discretion in carrying out his or her responsibilities. Here are eight examples:
- Sheriffs and police officers
- State prosecutors as well as defense attorneys
- Elected officials
Refusing arrest is defined as willfully resisting, delaying, or obstructing law enforcement authorities or medical emergency personnel in the exercise of their legal tasks as per PC 148.
Many individuals are taken aback when they find they were charged with battery on a police officer for resisting arrest. If you fight a law enforcement officer while they are executing their legal duties, you may face criminal charges. If you intentionally and offensively touch a law enforcement officer while resisting arrest, you could be convicted of resisting arrest as well as battery on a peace officer charge.
The prosecutor may employ many criminal accusations to persuade the accused to take a plea deal to any or all of the counts. A breach of this statute, unlike Penal Code 243 (c), is always punished as a misdemeanor, subject to a one-year jail term.
Find an Assault and Battery Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
If you've been charged with battery on a peace officer, it's important to understand that you're facing a serious charge that may land you in prison for a long time and have a huge impact on your future. We at Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm might help you avoid harsh penalties by representing and defending you against the charges leveled against you. Call us at 915-946-6366 to learn more about how we can help you.