What is Battery on a Peace Officer?
“Battery” and “Assault” are similar in many ways. Battery is the completed version of the crime of assault; if the act does not result in the application of physical force to another person it is an assault, if it does result in the application of physical force to another person it is a battery. Another similarity between assault and battery is how the penalties work; if the victim of the battery is a member of a specified class of individuals or in a specified location, the penalties will be different. For purposes of this article, the major distinction will be whether or not an injury was inflicted on the Peace Officer. Much like assault, batteries are termed “wobbler offenses” in California. This means that the Prosecution can charge the Defendant with a misdemeanor battery, or a felony battery. This distinction is generally based on the specific facts of the case. Specific to this article however is whether or not the peace officer sustained an injury as a result of the battery. If the peace officer did not suffer an injury, the charge will be brought as a misdemeanor pursuant to California Penal Code §243(b). However, if the peace officer does sustain an injury as a result of the battery, the offense can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor pursuant to California Penal Code §243(c)(2). The determination of whether or not to pursue a §243(c) (2) charge is typically based on the extent of injury to the peace officer, and the context in which the battery occurred. Finally, Battery on a Peace Officer is very similar to the crime of Assault on a Public Official in that it is a “general intent crime” but also requires specific knowledge on the part of the Defendant; namely that the Victim is a peace officer who is engaged in their duties. Since Battery on a Peace Officer requires an additional proof of knowledge, the Defendant can raise every defense they could have for a “simple battery” in addition to defenses which negate that the Defendant either knew the requisite information, or that the peace officer was engaged in their official duties in the first place
If you have been arrested for Battery on a Peace Officer, contact Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer for a free consultation immediately. In your first meeting, your lawyer will discuss every piece of information relating to the crime you are accused of, while still remember it vividly.
There are many advantages to contacting an attorney immediately after you have been arrested, and those reasons will be identified at the end of this article. The most salient benefit of providing your attorney with the facts surrounding your arrest while it is still fresh in your mind is your lawyer can begin crafting a defense unique to you based on reliable information. It is common for someone accused of a crime to contact an attorney weeks, or even months, after they have been arrested. The issue with contacting an attorney that long after you have been arrested is the event will not be as clear as it could be. The impact of this is significant, as the omission of certain facts could result in your attorney failing to consider a defense that would have otherwise been available. In law, every detail matters, and the more details you provide Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer in your initial consultation, the better chances you have of beating the charges against you. Armed with the information you have provided them, your LACL attorney can build a strong argument in your defense, and potentially convince the District Attorney to drop the charges against you altogether, or reduce the charges against you. The more information your attorney is armed with when talking with the District Attorney, the better the outcome will be. There are many cases where the District Attorney and the defense attorney will not agree about the strength of the case against you, and the case proceeds to a jury trial. Once again, having more time to build a case with more information will ultimately benefit you in trial, allowing your attorney to persuasively argue that the District Attorney has not proven their case against you. The crime of battery is set forth in California Penal Code §242, and the penalties associated with battery can be found in California Penal Code §243; the penalties associated with Battery on a Peace Officer are specifically set forth in §243(b) and §243(c) (2). You can find the Judicial Council of California’s approved jury instructions on the crime of battery in CACRIM 945i. In order to be convicted of Battery on a Peace Officer in a criminal trial, the Prosecutor must prove the following:
- The Defendant applied physical force, or caused physical force to be applied to the Victim;
- The Victim was a Peace Officer engaged in the performance of their duties;
- The Defendant knew the Victim was a Peace Officer engaged in the performance of their duties;
- The physical force was harmful or offensive in nature; AND
- The Defendant acted willfully when they applied, or caused to be applied physical force to another person which was harmful or offensive in nature.
It is a fundamental principal of criminal law that in order to be convicted of a crime, the Prosecution must prove every single element of the crime to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt. If the Prosecutor fails to meet their burden, the Defendant cannot be convicted of the crime they are accused of. The crime of Battery on a Peace Officer requires the showing of three basic allegations. First, the Defendant must be guilty of a “simple battery”. Assuming the Prosecution can prove that the Defendant was guilty of a “simple battery” they must then prove a second two-pronged fact: (1) the Victim was a Peace Officer and (2) at the time of the “simple battery” the Victim was engaged in their official duties as a Peace Officer. Finally, if the Prosecution can prove the first two facts, they must then prove that the Defendant knew, or should have known that the Victim was a Peace Officer engaged in their official duties as a peace officer. If the Prosecutor cannot prove all three of these facts, the Defendant cannot be convicted of Battery on a Peace Officer.
Since it is a fundamental aspect of criminal law that the Prosecutor must prove every element of the crime the Defendant is accused of to obtain a conviction, defense attorneys frequently seek to disprove one, or more, of the elements of the crime the Defendant has been accused of. Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer (“LACL”) has decades of combined experience representing clients who have been accused of criminal conduct exclusively. LACL have an intimate knowledge of the elements of every crime, including Batter against a Peace Officer. Utilizing their mastery of the law, LACL will provide the best opportunity for you to receive a favorable verdict if your case goes to trial. This article will analyze: (1) the specific elements of the underlying offense of a “simple battery”, (2) the additional elements that the Prosecution must prove to maintain a conviction for Battery of a Peace Officer, (3) the penalties associated with a conviction for Battery on a Peace Officer; and (4) what Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer can do to help you in the event you are charged with Battery on a Peace Officer.
What does it Mean to “Apply Physical force, Or Cause Physical Force to be Applied to Another Person”?
The crime of battery is designed to penalize the completed application of physical force to the person of another. This is in stark contrast to penalizing conduct which has the possible outcome of causing the application of physical force to another personii. Criminal law is cognizant that there are a number of ways of causing the actual application of physical force to another person. Each method of accomplishing the prerequisite element of actual physical contact will be accompanied by an example identifying conduct that would be considered sufficient under this element, and conduct that would not be sufficient under this element.
What is “Another Person”?
This article takes it as a given that the reader understands the component that physical force be applied to “another person” includes the actual body of the Victim. The law has expanded the definition of “another person” to encompass other culpable conduct, which includes conduct beyond the physical touching of one person by another. According to California lawiii a person’s body extends to objects that are attached to them. This means items the Victim is holding, as well as clothing, are sufficient to satisfy the “other person” prong of this crime.
Dan sees Officer Vince arresting his friend Sammi. Dan decides he wants to help Sammi get out of trouble, and makes up his mind to steal Officer Vince’s handcuffs, which he believes will provide Sammi an opportunity to run away. When Officer Vince pulls out his handcuffs, Dan rushes by and snatches the handcuffs out of Officer Vince’s hands. Dan can be convicted of Battery on a Peace Officer. Dan has committed the underlying crime of “simple battery” by physical touching the handcuffs, which are an extension of Officer Vince’s person. Further, Officer Vince was effectuating an arrest which is Officer Vince’s official duty as a peace officer. Finally, Dan knows, or should know, that Officer Vince is a peace officer engaged in his official duties because Dan observed Officer Vince attempting to arrest Sammi.
Dan sees Officer Vince attempting to arrest his friend Brandon. Wanting to help Brandon, Dan decides he is going to steal Officer Vince’s handcuffs. While Officer Vince is talking with Brandon, he places his handcuffs on the hood of his squad car. Seizing the moment, Dan sprints to the car, grabs the handcuffs, and runs off in another direction. Dan cannot be convicted of Battery on a Peace Officer. This is not Battery on a Peace Officer because the handcuffs were not deemed an extension of Officer Vince’s person, because he was no longer connected to themiv.
“Apply Physical Force”
The crime of battery can occur through direct or indirect means. This portion of the first element of “simple battery” will focuses on situations where the Defendant directly caused physical force to be applied to the Victim. As noted above, items connected to the Victim are considered an extension of the Victim’s body. Similarly, objects connected to the Defendant are considered extensions of their body.
Dan sees Officer Vince standing on the corner observing the area. Dan decides it would be funny to steal Officer Vince’s handcuffs. Dan climbs onto the roof with a piece of string and a magnet and lowers it down. The magnet gets close enough, and draws the handcuffs to it. Dan has committed Battery on a Peace Officer. Since the string and magnet are considered and extension of Dan’s person and the handcuffs are considered an extension of Officer Vince’s person, Dan has directly caused physical contact with Officer Vince. Further, Officer Vince is on patrol, which is the performance of his official duties as a peace officer, and Dan is aware, or should be aware of this fact.
Dan sees Officer Vince eating outside a local coffee shop, Dan also notices that Officer Vince’s handcuffs are placed on the table next to him. Dan climbs above Officer Vince and lowers a piece of string with a magnet attached down to the table. The handcuffs connect to the magnet, and Dan pulls the string up. Dan cannot be convicted of Battery on a Peace Officer because the handcuffs were not considered an extension of Officer Vince’s body. Further, an argument could be made that Officer Vince was not engaged in his official duties as a peace officer, since he was eating outside a local coffee shop.
“Cause Physical Force to be Applied”
Another way to be convicted of a “simple battery” is to cause physical force to be applied to another person. While California and most other states adopt the theory that items connected to a person are considered extensions of that person, California also accepts that someone can commit a battery without physically contacting another person under the extension theory.
Dan sees Officer Vince on patrol in Downtown Los Angeles. Dan dislikes police officers in general, and decides to throw a water bottle at Officer Vince. The water bottle strikes Officer Vince, and Dan is arrested. Dan can be convicted of Battery on a Peace Officer. This is true notwithstanding the fact that Dan did not physically walk up to Officer Vince and strike him with the water bottle. Dan’s act of throwing the water bottle at Officer Vince was the direct cause of physical force being applied to Officer Vince. Further, Officer Vince is on patrol, which is part of his official duty as a peace officer, and Dan should know this.
Dan sees Officer Vince on Patrol in Downtown Los Angeles. Dan, who had been arrested recently, threw his water bottle on the ground in disgust. Clark was riding his bike and struck the water bottle causing the cap to fly off the water bottle. The cap then struck an acorn above Officer Vince’s head, and the acorn dropped onto Officer Vince. Dan probably cannot be convicted of Battery on a Peace Officer because it is unlikely that Dan caused the acorn to fall on Officer Vince’s head.
Next, the Prosecution must convince the jury that the touching was a punishable type of touching; not all touching will be deemed a battery.
“Harmful” or “Offensive” in Nature
To be considered a battery, the touching that the Defendant caused must be either “harmful” or “offensive.” That is to say, the simple act of touching another person is insufficient to maintain a criminal conviction for battery. In laymen’s terms, to be “harmful” or “offensive” the touching must be done in a rude or angry manner. This analysis is generally based on what a reasonable person would believe the touch was harmful or offensive. However, if the Defendant has specific knowledge about the specific victim, the jury can consider that information in determining whether the touching met the harmful or offensive requirement.
It is not enough to show that the Defendant touched the Victim, or caused the Victim to be touched in a harmful or offensive manner. The Prosecution must also show that the Defendant acted “willfully” when they caused the touching itself.
What Does it Mean to Act “Willfully”?
As mentioned throughout this website, there are two types of crimes when it comes to the required intent to maintain a conviction; “general intent” and “specific intentv.” General intent is often signaled with the word “willfully”, while specific intent is frequently signaled with the phrase “with the intent to…vi” Battery is considered one of many general intent crimes. General intent exists when the Defendant intended the underlying act; it was an accident and the Defendant knew what they were doing. It is irrelevant whether the Defendant intended that a touching occurred, and it is irrelevant if the Defendant had any other negative intent in performing the act. As long as the act itself was intended, any consequences flowing from them can form the basis of a chargeable offense. For practical purposes, absent extenuating circumstances, this element is fairly easy for the Prosecution to prove; many of the defenses your LACL attorney can raise will be aimed at negating the possibility that the Defendant was acting willfully.
If the Prosecution can prove all of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt, you may be convicted of battery. However for a charge of Battery on a Peace Officer, the Prosecution must also prove that the Victim was a Peace Officer, who was performing their official duties as a peace officer, and that the Defendant knew or should have known that information.
Who is a Peace Officer?
A Peace Officer is defined as any person described in California Penal Code §830, et seq. and the crime of Battery on a Peace Officer includes a peace officer whether on, or off, duty provided they are performing their official duties. The crime of Battery on a Peace Officer further includes an officer who is wearing their uniform and simultaneously performing their official duties as a peace officer as well as their duties as a security guard or patrolman. As a practical matter, this can have a significant impact on people who get involved in altercations on nightclubs, concerts, or other public events.
What are a Peace Officer’s Official Duties?
While the definition of a Peace Officer is vague, their official duties encompass anything they are authorized to do, or required to do as part of their job. This could include investigating noise complaints, domestic violence complaints, or reports of suspicious behavior. The list of possible activities that would fall within the scope of this requirement is beyond the scope of this article.
What is a Common Example of Conduct that Will Result in a Charge of Battery on a Peace Officer?
The most common example of conduct, which gives rise to a charge of Battery on a Peace Officer, is resisting arrest. There is no question that effectuating an arrest is within the scope of a Peace Officer’s duty, and there is no question that the person being arrested is aware that the Victim is a Peace Officer performing their official duties. As such, when a battery occurs in the context of an arrest, it will almost invariably be brought as a Battery on a Peace Officer.
If the Prosecution can prove every element of Battery on a Peace Officer, you will be convicted, and you will face significant penalties.
I Have Been Convicted of Battery on a Peace Officer, What Penalties am I Facing?
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, Battery on a Peace Officer, specifically when the Peace Officer suffers an injury as a result of the battery, is a “wobbler offense.” This means that the Prosecutor has the option to bring the charges against you as a misdemeanor or a felony. The determination in this context will likely be made based on the severity of the injury to the Peace Officer, your prior criminal history, and your age.
If you have been convicted of a misdemeanor Battery on a Peace Officer, without an injury to the Peace Officer, you will face incarceration in county jail for a period of not more than one (1) year and/or a fine of up to two-thousand ($2,000) dollars.
If you have been convicted of a misdemeanor Battery on a Peace Officer where the Peace Officer suffered an injury as a result of the battery, you will face incarceration in county jail for a period of not more than one (1) year and/or a fine of two-thousand ($2,000) dollars.
If you have been convicted of a felony Battery on a Peace Officer where the Peace Officer suffered an injury as a result of the battery, you will face incarceration in state prison for a period ranging from sixteen (16) months, two (2) or three (3) years.
As a practical matter, when the sentencing phase comes, judges rarely accept arguments minimizing punishment. Having a skilled attorney representing you will increase your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome. Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer has several decades of combined experience representing clients in criminal cases, and sentencing hearings. Utilizing their years of experience, your LACL attorney will present the best argument available in favor of reducing the sentence you may face.
I Have Been Accused of Battery on a Peace Officer, What Can Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer Do For Me?
Any criminal charge can be frightening to the accused and their family, accusations involving a Peace Officer can be even more frightening. In addition to the risk of felony charges, the public stigma associated with harming our Peace Officers is palpable. Starting the moment you begin your initial consultation with Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer, we will fight for your freedom and your rights. Sometimes the Prosecution believes the ends justify the means when it comes to protecting Peace Officers, LACL will vigorously advocate and defend your rights to ensure a fair trial and a favorable outcome. A criminal conviction will follow you throughout your life and could have a noticeable impact on your career prospects. Employers frequently conduct what is known as a “background check” when screen candidates for positions with their company. A conviction for Battery on a Peace Officer may very well be the difference between gainful employment and a rejection letter.
Naturally, the ultimate goal is to avoid a conviction altogether. In order to accomplish this, your LACL attorney will attempt to negotiate with the District Attorney, bringing all the information they obtained in your initial consultation to bear. In the event that doesn’t work, your attorney will raise every defense available at your criminal trial including:
- You did not cause the physical touching of the Peace Officer
- The touching of the peace officer was not harmful or offensive
- You did not act willfully when you caused the physical touching of the peace officer
- The Victim was not a peace officer performing their official duties when the physical touching occurred
- You did not, and could not, have known that the Victim was a Peace Officer performing their official duties
- All other defenses associated with a “simple battery”
In the unfortunate event that a jury convicts you for Battery on a Peace Officer, your LACL attorney will fight for a reduced penalty raising arguments including:
- You do not have a prior criminal record
- The Peace Officer was not injured
- If the Peace Officer was injured, the injury was not substantial
- Your age
- Your history of good deeds in the community
- Your reputation for a good character in the community
- The facts surrounding the battery made your conduct less culpable
If you or a loved one has been accused of Battery on a Peace Officer, contact Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer at 310-502-1314 immediately for a FREE consultation.
i The Judicial Council of California Advisory Committee on Criminal Jury Instructions has drafted and approved jury instructions for every crime set forth in the California Penal Code (“CALCRIM”). Attorneys will frequently submit their own jury instructions, but the CALCRIM instructions provide excellent guidance as to what the Prosecution must prove in order to obtain a conviction.
ii The latter would be deemed an assault.
iii As well as every other state’s law regarding battery.
iv An argument could be made that Dan committed an assault.
v This is often referred to as the “mens reas” component of the crime.
vi Distinguish Assault with a Caustic Chemical or Flammable Substance and “simple assault”