Battery involves harmful or offensive touching of another person. This could include hitting or kicking someone, or hitting them with an object. Battery is generally a misdemeanor; however, there are increased penalties when battery is committed against a cop or other peace officer. In some cases, battery against an officer can result in felony charges.
Battery on a Police Officer in California
Battery involves any harmful or offensive touching without consent. It does not matter that the victim is not injured, even the slightest touching could be considered battery if the victim is offended or harmed by the defendant's touching. Throwing something at someone may also be considered battery. However, the penalties for battery may increase if battery resulted in serious bodily injury.
Under California Penal Code §243, battery is punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and 6 months in jail. However, there is a separate provision for battery against a peace officer. The penalties for battery against a peace officer depend on whether the officer suffered serious injuries.
Under California Penal Code §243(b), battery against a peace officer or other public servant is punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. This includes battery against a peace officer engaged in the performance of his or her duties, including:
- Peace officer
- Harbor police
- Fish and game officer
- Custodial officer
- Law enforcement volunteer
- Emergency medical technician
- Security officer
- Custody assistant
- Process server
- Traffic officer
- Code enforcement officer
- Animal control officer
- Search and rescue member
- Probation department employee
- Physician or nurse rendering emergency care outside a hospital or clinic
Some police officers work as private security or patrol officers when they are off duty. They may still be considered peace officers while in uniform and working in a private capacity as a part-time or casual private security guard or patrolman.
In order to be convicted of battery on a peace officer, the defendant has to know or reasonably should know that the victim is a peace officer or listed individual above. For example, if you got into a fight with someone at a bar and punched them, if that person turns out to be lifeguard, the battery charge would not likely be against a peace officer because you did not reasonably know the individual was a lifeguard and they were not engaged in the performance of his or her duties.
Battery on a Peace Officer Resulting in Injury
Under California Penal Code §243(c)(1), battery on an officer that results in any injury can lead to felony charges. Battery on a any of the above individuals except for a peace officer, where an injury is inflicted is punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and up to 3 years in jail. If battery resulting in injury is committed against a peace officer, including a cop or sheriff's deputy, the penalties include up to 3 years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
“Injury” is defined as “any physical injury which requires professional medical treatment.” Even a small cut could be considered an injury if the officer has to get medical treatment.
Battery Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury
Under California Penal Code §243(d), battery that results in serious bodily injury against anyone is punishable by imprisonment for up to 4 years. “Serious bodily injury” is defined as “a serious impairment of physical condition, including, but not limited to, the following: loss of consciousness; concussion; bone fracture; protracted loss or impairment of function of any bodily member or organ; a wound requiring extensive suturing; and serious disfigurement.”
Many people are surprised to learn they have been changed with battery on a police officer because they were resisting arrest. Resisting a police officer while the officer is performing law enforcement duties may result in struggling against being taken into custody or arrested. Any intentional touching of an officer while resisting arrest can lead to criminal charges for resisting arrest and battery on a peace officer.
In some cases, the prosecutor uses multiple criminal charges as a way to get the defendant to plead guilty to one or more offenses. Talk to your criminal defense attorney about your case before you decide to plead guilty to any charges.
Defenses to Battery on a Peace Officer
There may be a number of legal defenses available to charges of battery on a peace officer. In order to be found guilty of battery on a peace officer, the prosecutor has to prove all the elements of the offense. This requires showing:
- The victim was a peace officer acting in the course of their duties;
- The defendant reasonably should have known the victim was a peace officer;
- The defendant touched the peace officer with the intent to harm or offend;
- The peace officer did not consent to the touching; and
- The peace officer was harmed or offended by the defendant's conduct.
It may be a defense to battery on a peace officer if the individual was not acting in the course of their duties at the time. For example, hitting an EMT may not result in additional penalties if the EMT was not on duty at the time or was not wearing their uniform.
Accidental touching is not considered battery. For example, if someone tripped on a crack in the sidewalk and fell over onto a police officer, this would generally not qualify as battery. In this case, the individual did not have the intent to touch the police officer.
East Bay Criminal Defense Attorney
Lynn Gorelick has more than 30 years of criminal defense experience defending her clients facing criminal battery or assault charges. She understands how to approach the individual facts of each case for the greatest chance of success, keeping her clients out of jail and keeping a clean record. Whether you are arrested in Oakland, Richmond or anywhere else in Contra Costa County or Alameda County, contact Lynn Gorelick.