More serious than a simple assault and battery charge, committing a assault or battery on an officer (or “Peace Officer”) constitutes an aggravated battery where certain people have been designated by the law as protected persons.
Assault on Custodial Officer
What does it mean when someone is charged with “Assaulting a Police Officer”?
Being charged with Penal Code 241 means that an officer and another person engaged in a heated confrontation—and that the encounter most likely ended in an arrest with someone possibly injured.
The reason for this is because a person who commits an assault does not have to lay a single hand on the officer. Yet, if the officer acts accordingly or even goes too far with their reaction, the person about to be arrested is most definitely going to receive some form of aggressive force.
Injuries during arrest happen more frequently than most people think. Sometimes the police are the ones who are hurt because of unruly defendants that refuse to comply. Other times, too much force is used in reacting to movements that can be easily misinterpreted by even the most trained police. Serious investigations must be made into these cases because of the temptation to exaggerate events once they are over. And these exaggerations can be committed on both sides because nobody is immune from taking things too personally.
The Law of Penal Code 241
The criminal charge of Section 241 has many parts. In order to be found guilty of this offense, the following has to occur:
- The person acted in a way that would probably result in force to someone.
- The person acted willfully.
- The person was aware that by the way they were acting, it would probably result in force to someone.
- The person had the present ability to apply force to someone.
- The person acted this way against a custodial officer performing their duty.
- The person knew that the other was a custodial officer and that they were performing their duties as one.
- And the person did not act in self-defense or defending someone else.
You will notice that some of the language is redundant, but the law stresses very carefully that the person who is to be arrested for this kind of charge must be aware that the way they are acting is dangerous and that an officer will not take that kind of behavior lightly.
However, notice as well that the law allows a person to stand up to unlawful actions by an officer and even gives them the right to defend against unlawful force against them or someone they are trying to protect.
Most people would not believe that they could react with force against an officer if what they are doing goes too far. That’s not difficult to grasp since everyone knows what would happen to them if they even tried to fight back an officer –whether or not it was the right thing to do.
But the law of Penal Code 241 is clear in that situations where a custodial officer is not lawfully performing their duties, a suspect that is the subject of an investigation or under the custody of a police officer does not have to take a beating without any ability to fight back. But how would someone prove that fact after they’ve already been arrested and charged?
Defending Against Assault on Custodial Officer
Investigation is key in every criminal charge, Penal Code 241 is no different. Video and audio recordings can be central to an investigation of this nature. Also, witnesses who happen to see or hear what was happening will be very important so that a judge and jury can get a glimpse into other people’s perspectives of the situation.
The reason this kind of evidence is important because just like many other police officer use of force crimes—it’s very hard to place ourselves in the shoes of an officer or defendant on that particular day with those set of circumstances.
The Bottom Line of Assault Penal Code 241
When dealing with charges such as this one, people must remember that police officer work is very dangerous. Therefore, sudden and seemingly violent movements by anyone can rattle a law enforcement officer who is equipped with very serious violent weaponry. On the other hand, innocent or random gestures by someone who is not used to engaging with officers can find themselves with injuries and having to fight criminal charges because an officer took things too far or misinterpreted those actions.
The Law of Battery on an Officer
To be found guilty of this offense, a person must:
- Commit an assault and/or battery;
- Against a police officer;
- During the time that the officer was engaged in the performance of their duties;
- Have known that the other person was an officer engaged in their duties;
- Caused the officer sustained some form of injury.
Engaged in the Performance of Duties
This is by far the most important aspect of this law. Most civil rights violations and therefore valid defenses to this crime stem from the fact that sometimes an officer is NOT making a lawful arrest or using unreasonable force. To be engaged in the performance of an officer’s duties, means that the officer is:
- Making a lawful arrest,
- Attempting to exercise custody over a person,
- Detaining someone for questioning,
- Or using reasonable force to conduct an arrest or detention that is lawful.
Punishment for Battery on an Officer
A person can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony under this law.
Defenses to Assault/Battery on an Officer
The most common of defenses stems from falsified police reporting in terms of exaggerated injuries or falsified resistance on the part of the arrested. This sometimes is the case where unfortunately an officer could engage in some form of unprofessional misconduct and the charges are brought to take attention away from this behavior. A person is legally allowed to use self-defense against unreasonable or excessive force, even when the officer is in the process of arresting them.
The problem with that of course, is that the reality of resisting (whether lawfully or not) almost guarantees a escalation of force by the officer… sometimes equating to lethal or deadly force. Many cases of police brutality occur when in the midst of confusion and butting heads, a person that feels they are being arrested unlawfully will lash out or resist…but an officer that is operating on adrenaline or fear for officer safety will increase their force substantially to bring the situation to a calm conclusion.
Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer
Assault and battery charges against a police officer tend to arise from very complicated and heated encounters. Therefore, there are rarely clear cut stories. Thorough investigations by both sides (defense and prosecution) will still result in total disagreement and ultimately require a court or jury to made the final determination. If you wish to have experienced counsel on your side, contact us for a case evaluation.