When a person uses violence willfully and unlawfully against another they may be charged with the crime of battery, according to California assault and battery law. If the alleged victim is a “peace officer” according to California Penal Code section 242, then the defendant may face strict penalties. To be convicted of battery on a peace officer, the prosecution must prove all elements of the crime, including that the defendant knew or should have known that the victim was a peace officer. If you have been arrested for battery on a peace officer, it is important to understand these charges as they carry severe consequences. San Bernardino and Riverside County assault and battery defense lawyer Gregory H. Comings provides effective legal representation, asserting and protecting your rights under the law.
According to California Penal Code sections 243(b) and 243(c), battery against a peace officer is punishable by fine and/or imprisonment. Battery is a willful and unlawful use of force, or violence upon another person. This type of force, when knowingly used against a peace officer, subjects the individual to potentially serious criminal charges. California law makes clear that “peace officer” is a term that may refer to traffic cops, firefighters, police officers, and lifeguards, among others.
Generally, the crime of battery on a peace officer does not require proof that the victim suffered more than a minor scrape or bruise. In most cases, battery against a peace officer is a misdemeanor, however, battery on a peace officer that results in injury is a wobbler, and may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. “Injury” includes physical injuries that require medical treatment, although this does not mean that the victim must have sought treatment.
Penal Code section 243 does require that when the defendant committed their unlawful, willful touching of the victim, they knew or reasonably should have known the victim was a peace officer engaged in the performance of their duties. Peace officers may be performing “official duties,” according to the law, regardless of whether they are on the clock. For instance, an officer who is off-duty but witnesses a crime in progress and steps in, calling for backup, is likely performing official duties. However, engaging in police misconduct, such as unlawful search and seizure or police brutality is not considered performing official duties.
It is the prosecution's burden, when bringing a charge against a defendant for battery on a peace officer, to show all elements of this crime. According to California Penal Code section 243, the alleged perpetrator must have had intentional physical contact with an individual that they knew to be a peace officer. Intentional contact is willful, and one defense may be that the defendant had incidental contact during an arrest, for example, accidentally brushing against an officer while adjusting their handcuffs. Unintentional contact does not rise to the level of willful, intentional touching and a charge for battery will not stand.
The prosecution must next prove that the defendant, when they acted, knew the victim was a peace officer who had been performing their duties. It does not matter whether the officer was on duty at the time of the alleged battery. If the officer was performing duties of a peace officer, then the defendant can be convicted of battery against a peace officer under Penal Code 243.
If the defendant did not know, or could not reasonably know that the victim was a peace officer, this is a legal defense to Penal Code section 243(b) & (c) charges. Factors that may be considered when determining whether the defendant knew or should have known that the victim was a peace officer include whether the victim was in uniform, whether they announced their status, and whether they were in a clearly marked police or ambulance car. For example, if the defendant got into an altercation in a bar, and the victim was an undercover police officer, off-duty, enjoying a drink, it is unlikely that the defendant knew the victim was a peace officer. In that case, it is possible that the defendant’s charge may be reduced to simple battery according to California Penal Code section 242. A seasoned criminal defense lawyer can assess whether the intent element is likely to be fulfilled in your case.
Finally, self defense may apply to the charge of battery of a peace officer. This may be a strong defense if the defendant reasonably believed that they or someone else weas in imminent danger, that use of force was necessary to defend against that danger, and no more force than was reasonably necessary was used. It must be noted that the defendant can only claim self defense if they reasonably believed someone was in danger of an unlawful touching, or an injury.
The Law Office of Gregory H.Comings is here to help you understand your legal rights and obligations following a battery against a peace officer charge. We understand the sensitive nature of being charged with this serious crime, and we are available 24/7. Attorney Gregory H. Comings is available to meet with you and to help you set forth a valid defense. Our office serves individuals throughout San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. To help protect your rights, call our office today at (951) 686-3457 or reach us online. We offer a consultation about your case and make it a priority to provide personal, efficient legal representation. We serve people throughout areas including Palm Desert, Temecula, Palm Springs, and Moreno Valley, Indio, Fonatana, Highland, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, San Bernardino, and Victorville.