Monder Law Group - News
What Is Assault and Battery on a Peace Officer?
The difference between assault and battery involving a peace officer, or with anyone for that matter, is important to recognize. In California, assault is the serious intention to physically harm someone. You don’t necessarily need to do any actual physical harm: a serious threat or missed punch, kick, shove, etc. is still assault. Battery, however, does require some form of physical contact. Battery can be punished with up to 6 months jail time, up to a $2,000 fine, or both.
The charges are much more serious when a battery involves a peace officer. To clarify, peace officers include police, security guards, firefighters, lifeguards, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, etc. Battery involving a peace officer can drastically raise the punishment to a $10,000 fine, one year in county prison, or up to 3 years in State prison.
Battery in California occurs more often than you may think. What may have started a simple traffic stop or questioning can often escalate to a major felony. For example, let’s say a young man gets pulled over in his car. He has marijuana in his pocket and the car smells like marijuana as well. When the officer comes by, he smells the drugs and asks you to step out of the vehicle to answer some questions. The man panics and starts to run. He is chased by the officer, eventually tackled, and begins to put him in handcuffs. The man resists arrest and manages to break free from his grip. If at any time the struggle of putting on handcuffs results in the officer observing that he or she is being hit, kicked, spit on, or in any way physically harmed, the man can now be charged with assault & battery on a peace officer. You can see how police encounters can unintentionally escalate to the point of battery on a peace officer.
Aside from a one-on-one encounter, battery can often happen in group situations like concerts, protests, and sporting events. When police enter big crowds of people to break up fights or calm a situation down, people often spit on officers and push them away from the group. Naturally, the officers begin to arrest the people closest to them assuming those were the people causing physical harm. Luckily, people in these big group events dress the same and thus, are hard to identify. This is what makes “mistaken identity” a great defense.
Another commonly used defense that can work for a one-on-one encounter is that the battery was an accident. For example, say a man is in a crowd and gets pulled from behind by a police officer. Not knowing it was a police officer, the man pulls the arm off of his shoulder and runs. Although the man will most likely be arrested, he can easily argue that there was no intent on causing physical harm to a police officer.
Police officers can also exaggerate the truth or lie about the circumstances of the incident in order to better solidify their case. While there are many honest, good police officers, many other fall under the category above. Lawyers should make a motion to the court requesting an officer’s personal record in order to shed light on an officer’s character; therefore, help to reduce the officer’s credibility. These personal records often show officers with a history of complaints involving exaggeration of the truth, excessive force, and lying on the stand. It is human nature to simplify believe an officer’s testimony on the stand, so it is very important to retrieve these personal documents as part of a comprehensive and effective defense.
Another important thing for a defendant is informing the district attorney of the defendant’s history. The more a district attorney knows about the good in a defendant, the more power a defendant can negotiate a plea deal. For example, a woman with a history of felonies and a past battery on a peace officer convictions would not be as good as a single mom with a clean record and 200 hours of community service. Prior community service can also be huge in negotiating plea deals. If you have already been charged with battery on a peace officer, the best thing you can do while a lawyer is working on the case is doing as much community service as possible. This can almost always be leveraged with the district attorney.
All of these defenses can be implemented in a complete defense case for a battery on a peace officer: claiming mistaken identify, accidental battery, and uncovering an officer’s personal files. But the most important thing is to find a lawyer that can do this for you. A good lawyer is able to customize the perfect defense based on an individual’s circumstances in order minimize any punishment charged, or even get the cased dismissed all together. A lawyer who is very experienced with battery on a peace officer with a history of dismissals and positive outcomes will be key in ensuring your best possible outcome.