California law protects certain people due to the nature of their work. An example is the peace officers. These are people who directly serve public members' needs and could include the police, emergency medical technicians, and firefighters. Battery on a peace officer is a severe offense that could occur if any person willfully and illegally touches a peace officer in an offensive or harmful manner while the officer is performing their duty. The violation is severely punished by a lengthy jail/prison term and payment of a hefty fine.
Our competent criminal attorneys at Koenig Law Office could help you fight in court if you face these charges in Bakersfield. We handle cases like these every day. Thus, we know the right defense strategies that could help you obtain a fair outcome for your situation.
Legal Definition of Battery on a Peace Officer
The police and other peace officers do a commendable job of ensuring the safety and well-being of public members. However, that sometimes comes at a cost. Disagreements often occur while these officers discharge their duties, and officers could be injured. California Penal Codes 243(b) and 243(c) protect officers against battery while the officer is in the line of duty. Anyone found guilty of touching an officer unlawfully and offensively could face serious charges and a conviction that could change the remaining part of their life.
Battery on a peace officer is not a straightforward offense. It constitutes different actions that, if performed against a particular officer while the officer is performing their duty, would cause you (the offender) to face serious criminal charges. The challenge of proving a suspected offender's actions falls on the prosecutor. The law guides the prosecutor on the specific elements or facts of the case that they must prove beyond a reasonable doubt for the court to find you guilty under this statute. These elements are:
- That you unlawfully and willfully touched a person offensively or harmfully.
- The person was a peace officer or any other protected person
- The officer was in the line of duty
- You knew or should have reasonably known that the person was a protected officer and that the officer was performing their duty
Here is a list of protected officers under these statutes:
- Police officers and other law enforcement officers
- Custodial officers
- Paramedics or EMTs
- California highway patrolmen
- Animal control officers
- Process servers
- Security guards, whether public or private
- Employees working in the probation department
- Medical personnel offering emergency medical services
Let us look at some of these elements in greater detail to understand this law even better:
A Willful Touch
The crime of battery constitutes a willful or deliberate touch. A person willfully commits an act when they do it willingly or on purpose. Even a slight touch is enough to support battery charges if it satisfies other offense elements. Making contact with the person, directly or indirectly (through their clothes), is enough to cause you to ace battery charges in California.
As mentioned above, a willful touch can be directly or indirectly. Direct touch is one that the offender commits with their body or hands. An indirect touch occurs if you use an object or another person to touch the protected officer. For example, if you throw an object at an officer in anger.
A willful touch does not mean that you intended to break the law, hurt or gain an advantage over the officer.
Harmfully or Offensively
Battery is also an act that is done harmful or offensively. A genuine touch on a peace officer while in the line of duty does not satisfy elements of this offense if it does not satisfy this element. A harmful and offensive touch is rude, violent, done in anger, or disrespectful.
Example: An officer in uniform stops Mark just before entering the mall. His left pocket looks like he is carrying a firearm. The officer is mistaken, but Mark is offended. He is unwilling to allow the officer to check his pockets. As the officer insists on seeing what is in his pockets, Mark angrily pushes the officer aside and continues to walk. The push was done angrily on a peace officer while the officer was performing his duty. It means that Mark is guilty of battery on a peace officer.
Penalties for a Conviction Under California PC 243(b)/243(c)
Battering a protected officer is a serious offense in California. It is generally a misdemeanor offense, punishable by:
- Misdemeanor probation
- A maximum of one year in county jail
- Maximum court fines of $2,000
But, your charges will be different if you inflict physical injuries on the protected officer, causing him/her to seek medical treatment. In that case, the offense would be a wobbler. The prosecutor would charge it as a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the gravity of the injuries and your criminal history.
If you face felony charges for battery on a peace officer in California, you will likely receive the following penalties:
- Summary probation
- A maximum of three years in jail
- A maximum court fine of $10,000
A conviction for any criminal offense in California will leave you with a damaging criminal record. That could affect various aspects of your life, including your effort to find suitable employment. You must fight your charges in court to compel the court to dismiss your charges.
A felony conviction will also affect your other rights, like gun rights. California law prohibits anyone with a felony conviction on their criminal record from possessing or acquiring a firearm. If you have a gun, you will be required to surrender it following the conviction.
Legal Defense Strategies Against Charges Under California PC 243(b)/243(c)
Working closely with a competent criminal attorney to fight your charges is advisable. The court could dismiss your charges if you put up a solid defense. Fortunately for you, your attorney will be able to use various defense strategies to weaken the prosecutor’s evidence against you. These strategies make it hard for the prosecutor to prove your charges beyond a reasonable doubt. Some of them are:
You Acted in Self-Defense
Self-defense is a common defense strategy for those facing battery or assault charges. You could have acted the way you did because you or another person was facing imminent danger from the said officer.
California law allows individuals and groups to use reasonable force in self-defense or defense of others. But, you must not have used more force than necessary in self-defense. The court will consider the degree of force you used against the officer and whether it matched the danger you faced.
For instance, you must have angrily or offensively touched the officer because you faced police brutality at the time. It could be that the officer in question was about to do something against a seemingly weaker person, and you intervened to protect the alleged victim.
A competent criminal attorney will know the right words to convince the court that you or another person were in danger and needed to act fast to avoid physical harm.
The Act Was Not Willful
The crime of battery requires the defendant to have acted willfully, though not to harm the victim, break the law or take advantage of the victim. As previously mentioned, a willful act is done willingly or on purpose. You must have intended to touch the officer at that instance, and you did so knowing that they were a protected officer performing their duty.
But you cannot be guilty under this law if the act was purely accidental. An accidental touch will not satisfy all elements of this offense. For instance, it could be that an officer fell and injured his arm when you accidentally pushed her as you were trying to recover your balance from a slip and fall incident.
Accidents happen all the time. People push or even injure others without meaning to. The court will consider the circumstances of the case to determine whether you are guilty of battery. If indeed the act was accidental, the judge will dismiss your charges.
The Officer Was Not In the Line of Duty
California PC 243(c) and 243(d) require you to have battered an officer while the officer was in the line of duty. It means that the officer was working and discharging their duty directly to members of the public.
You do not need to know the officer in-person to know that they were working at the time. It could be that the officer was in uniform and in a place from where they discharged their duty. For instance, a traffic patrolman will be on the streets or highway and in uniform. A police officer will be in uniform and a patrol car.
The officer does not need to tell you that they are working for you to know they are in the line of duty. Having a uniform or being in their duty location is enough indication that they are in the line of duty. Thus, the law requires to have reasonably known that the officer was working at the time.
If none of that is true, maybe the officer was not in their office, in uniform, or place of work, you could face other battery charges and not charges for battery on a peace officer.
Example: Annette and Martha disagree after having a few drinks in their favorite bar downtown. Annette is a police officer, and Martha is a local business owner. Martha picks up her bottle and throws it at Annette in anger. Unfortunately, the bottle hits Annette on the head, causing her a severe injury. She quickly seeks medical help, and Martha is arrested.
Martha is not guilty under this law, even if Annette is a protected officer. It is because Annette was not in the line of duty at the offense. However, Martha could face battery and assault charges under California PC 242.
Expungement of a Conviction Record
There is usually no guarantee that the jury will dismiss your charges even after putting up a fight against your charges during the trial. That is why you should think of expungement and how you can benefit from it if you receive a conviction for battery on a peace officer.
California expungement law is under Penal Code 1203.4. The law allows convicts to petition the court to have their conviction record erased from their criminal record. A conviction leaves you with a damaging record that could affect several aspects of your life. For instance, potential employers could be skeptical about hiring you if you have a criminal record. Landlords find it hard to rent or lease a property to an ex-convict. It becomes hard to access basic services like everyone else. That is why you need to consider expungement, to erase the criminal record and keep it from public scrutiny.
However, criminal courts in California do not allow expungement of criminal records until a convict completes their jail sentence and/or probation. Once you serve your sentence, you can begin the expungement process with the help of your criminal attorney. The process starts with filing a petition with the court where your judgment was made. The judge has total discretion on whether to grant your request.
Once the court grants your expungement request, you will no longer have to worry about the conviction and its implications in your life. You can only disclose the conviction when applying for a job in the public sector.
Battery on a Peace Officer and Related Charges
Battery on a peace officer is closely related to other offenses under California law. Some of these offenses are prosecuted together with PC 243(c)/243(d), while the others are charged in its place. The most common of these offenses are:
Simple Battery — California PC 242
It is the underlying offense for battery on a peace officer. The prosecutor must first prove that you committed an act of battery before proving other elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
Simple battery occurs when you unlawfully and willfully apply violence or force against another person. The legal definition of battery under PC 242 is the same as battery under PC 243. Even a slight touch counts as a battery if done offensively or harmfully. Remember that the contact can be direct or indirect (through an object or another person).
If you commit battery against a peace officer but do not satisfy all elements of the offense because the officer was not in the line of duty, you could face simple battery charges under this statute.
Simple battery is a misdemeanor offense, punishable by summary probation or a maximum of one year in jail and a fine of not more than $2,000.
Resisting Arrest — California PC 148
You could face charges for resisting an arrest in California if you willfully resist, obstruct or delay a police officer or an emergency medical technician performing their official duties. For instance, fighting off a police officer as he/she tries to handcuff you or your friend. You could also face charges under this law for a simple act like giving misleading information to a police officer to delay or prevent an arrest.
Resisting arrest is generally a misdemeanor offense, punishable by a maximum of one year in jail and a fine of not more than $1,000. However, you could face additional charges for offensively or harmful touching an officer while he/she is in the line of duty. Your charges will even be graver if the officer incurs injuries.
Resisting Executive Officers — California PC 69
You could face charges under this statute if you use violence or threats to prevent an executive officer from performing their duty. It is a more severe offense than resisting arrest because it involves using violence or threats of violence.
Executive officers are a broader category of persons protected by law due to their work. They include police officers, sheriffs, judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and other elected officials.
California PC 69 is a wobbler offense. It means that prosecutors can charge it as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances of the case and the offender’s criminal history.
If charged as a misdemeanor, the offense carries a maximum of one year in jail and a fine of not exceeding $10,000. But if charged with a felony, you will likely receive a maximum of three years in jail.
Find a Bakersfield Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Battery on an on-duty peace officer is a serious offense. It carries life-changing penalties. But, you can avoid all that if you put up a good fight in court. The goal is to hire a competent criminal lawyer to plan a solid defense against your charges. You could compel the court to dismiss or reduce your charges. Contact Koenig Law Office at 661-793-7222 if you face these charges in Bakersfield. Take advantage of our extensive training and experience to obtain a favorable outcome for your situation.