What you say or do during an encounter with police or a peace officer should be thought through carefully. The reason being if a peace officer claims you touched them offensively or harmfully, they will stretch the truth to build a case even if it is a misunderstanding or distortion of facts. Innocent people have been convicted of battery on a peace officer, whereas what they did doesn’t amount to a crime. To help you understand this crime more, our attorneys at the San Jose Criminal Attorney Law Firm have discussed the legal definition of battery on a peace officer. Further, they have discussed elements the prosecutor must prove, punishment for the crime, legal defenses, and other related charges.
Legal Definition of Battery on a Peace Officer
California PC 243 (b) and PC 243 (c) make it illegal to deliberately and unlawfully touch a peace officer offensively or rudely while the officer is engaged in his or her official duties. The crime is committed when you were aware or ought to have known the casualty is a protected person undertaking official duties.
Elements of PC 243 (b) and PC 243 (c)
The prosecution must establish particular elements to convince the jury that you committed battery on a protected person. These elements include:
The Alleged Victim was a Peace Officer or Protected Person
In California, there are protected occupations. Any person employed by law enforcement agencies is a protected person. The persons defined as per PC 243 (b) & (c) include:
- Police officers
- Emergency medical technicians
- Custodian officers
- Animal control officers
- Doctors and nurses providing emergency medical care
- Security guards
- Transit officers
- Deputy sheriffs
- Highway patrol officers
If the prosecution can convince the jury that the battery was on any of the above persons, you will be easily convicted of this crime.
The Victim was Engaging in His or Her Official Duties
The prosecution must further prove that the peace officer was engaged in his or her duties when you allegedly battered them. If, when you acted, the victim was off duty, then you are less likely to be convicted. But where the victim was wearing the police uniform or performing his or her responsibilities like attending to a medical emergency, you will be sentenced.
You Willfully Touched the Victim Violently or Offensively
Harmful or offensive touching is defined clearly as per this Penal Code. So, if the touch was on purpose not necessary to break the law, hurt someone or gain an advantage but was done rudely or angrily, then you are guilty. The victim doesn't need to have sustained injuries for you to be found guilty of the crime. Remember that the law is not clear what touching is, so you might find yourself being convicted for touching violently or rudely something that is attached to the victim like a purse.
You Were Aware, or Reasonably Ought to have been Aware the Victim was a Peace Officer
If you were aware or should have reasonably known that the victim was a protected person, then you are guilty of violating PC 243 (b) and (c). However, before the jury can decide on whether you should have known the person was in a protected occupation, they will consider the following factors:
- Whether the protected person was in a distinguishing uniform
- Whether he or she announced his or her official status as a peace officer
- Whether he or she was driving in a clearly marked vehicle indicating his or her status as a peace officer.
If you are charged with only a violation of PC 243 (c), the prosecution must prove that the victim sustained injuries that required medical attention due to the force you used.
Penalties for Violating PC 243(b) and PC 243(c)
Generally, PC 243(b)(c) is a misdemeanor. Being charged with this offense subjects you to the following penalties:
- Informal probation
- No more than twelve months’ county jail term
- A fine not exceeding two thousand dollars
- Completion of a batterer’s program
- Community service
According to PC 243(b)(c), if the alleged battered person sustains injuries, the offense becomes a wobbler. The prosecution can choose to charge you with a misdemeanor or felony based on your criminal past and the degree of the injuries inflicted. Note that an injury, in this case, must be physical and one that requires medical attention.
It is also vital to note that it is not a must for the victim to have sort medical treatment for the jury to determine he or she suffered severe injuries. As long as they can ascertain that specific damage was done to the peace officer after being battered, such as not being able to work, you can still be convicted.
When the prosecutor opts to charge you with a misdemeanor for causing injuries on a protected person, the penalties are similar to those of simple battery on a peace officer. The fine is, however, going to increase to dollars ten thousand, but only if the injured person is a peace officer and not a protected person.
If the prosecution opts for felony charges, the penalties are much more severe and they include:
- Formal probation
- Incarceration sentence of 16, 24, and 36 months
- A fine of no more than ten thousand dollars
Besides, you will be required to complete batterer’s class, engage in community labor, receive a strike, and be prohibited from buying, possessing, or owning a gun.
Also, it is essential to remember that certain factors can increase your sentence. If you used a firearm to batter a peace officer, this is deemed as an aggravating factor, and your punishment might increase to no more than four, six, or eight years.
Fighting PC 243 Charges
The penalties for being found guilty of violating PC 243 (b) & (c) are very severe such that it is up to your criminal defense attorney to come up with legal defense theories that will work for under your situation. Some of these constitutional defenses are:
1. You Committed the Crime Protecting Yourself or Another Person
You can assert self-defense if you justifiably believed that you or another individual was in impending danger of being touched violently by the victim, and you used force reasonably to deflect the threat. Keep in mind that the offensive words of a peace officer alone are not enough to justify self-defense. You cannot deflect fighting words using kicks and punches. It will be considered the use of unreasonable force, so you will still be guilty of battering a protected person.
2. You Acted Accidentally and not Willfully
As said earlier, you are guilty of the crime of battery on a peace officer if you deliberately touched the officer violently. If you did it by accident, even if the person is injured, you are not guilty. The defense strategy works well where you are being charged with battery on a police officer when being taken into custody. Sometimes police might not correctly handle you when making an arrest, and this might make you uncomfortable. As you try to make yourself comfortable, maybe if you have been handcuffed and in the process accidentally hit a police officer, you will be charged with PC 243 (b)(c) violation. In such a scenario, you can claim that you didn’t act willfully. Instead, it was an accident.
3. The Peace Officer You Allegedly Battered was not Performing his or her Duties
If the victim in question was not performing his or her duties, then you are not guilty of battering a peace officer. You can only be guilty of the offense if, at the time of the action, the officer or the protected person was performing his or her duties. Note that in certain circumstances, even if the police officer was wearing a uniform and announces that he or she is a peace officer, you are not guilty. These incidences include:
- When an officer unlawfully arrests and detains you
- When an officer commits police brutality against you
- If the officer violates your fourth amendment rights through unlawful search and seizure.
- When an officer engages in racial profiling
Any time a peace officer participates in any of these conducts, it means he or she is not lawfully performing his or her duties. If you battered the officer in such circumstances, even if they sustained injuries, you will not be convicted.
4. The Charges are an Exaggeration
False allegations are not new in battery cases. The main reason being that the victim doesn’t have to suffer actual physical injuries or harm. An arresting officer can exaggerate what happened and claim that you battered him or her, whereas that is not what happened. Unfortunately, if you don’t put up the right argument, you end up being convicted. But with an excellent criminal attorney, he or she will find a way to prove that the officer is exaggerating what happened. And because police are known for stretching the truth, you are likely to walk free.
PC 243 (b) & (c) and Related Offenses
Offenses that are closely related to battery on a peace officer include:
PC 242 criminalizes illegal use of force, violence, or offensively or rudely touching another person. The law is very similar to PC 243(b)(c). The only difference is that a simple battery focuses on individuals other than peace officers or protected persons. PC 242 is usually charged in place of PC 243 (b)(c), where the battered peace officer was not on duty. You may have battered a protected person, but if they were not performing their lawful duties, the charges are reduced to simple battery. Compared to PC 243 (b)(c), a simple battery is a lesser offense with lighter penalties. The penalties include:
- As much as $2000 in fine
- No more than 180 days’ county jail term
- Possible anger management classes
Compared to the penalties for a conviction under PC243 (b)(c), your attorney can use PC 242 in a plea bargain where the prosecution has weak evidence to convict you of battering a protected person.
Battery Causing Serious Injury
PC 243 (d) focuses on battery, too, but its main concern is whether the victim has sustained serious bodily injuries. Keep in mind that great bodily injury definition is distinct from serious bodily injury. A serious injury is one that causes physical impairment. Basically, PC 243 makes it a crime to deliberately touch another person offensively or violently to the extent the touch results in the victim sustaining serious bodily injury. You will be convicted of this crime if the prosecution can prove the following elements:
- You touched another person violently or harmfully
- The victim you touched suffered serious bodily injuries
The crime of battery is a wobbler. If the prosecution opts for misdemeanor charges, a conviction will subject you to the following penalties:
- Informal probation
- As much as two-thousand-dollar fine
- 120 months’ restriction on owning a firearm
- Mandatory anger management classes
If you are charged with a felony and convicted, you are subject to:
- Felony probation
- No more than $10,000 fine
- Incarceration sentence of twenty-four, thirty-six or forty-eight months
- A lifetime ban from owning a firearm
- Anger management counseling
Also, the court might instruct that you restitute the victim for medical expenses and financial difficulties experienced because of your actions.
In case you are charged for battering a police officer inflicting serious bodily injury, the prosecution can opt to charge you with either PC 243 (b)(c) or PC 243 (d). The prosecutor will always choose to pursue the charge with harsher penalties, and in this case, they are likely to charge you under PC 243 (d).
You can fight PC 243 (d) charges and avoid the harsh penalties by arguing that you acted in self-defense, the battery was accidental and that the injury was not actually serious. However, to do this is not going to be a cakewalk. You need a criminal defense attorney who understands these defense theories.
The battery on a Peace Officer and Other Associated or Similar Offenses
Particular offenses are similar or associated with PC 243 (b)(c); these offenses include:
1. Resisting Arrest
As per PC 148 (a)(1), it is a crime to delay, resist, or impede a peace officer or an emergency medical technician from performing his or her duties. The offense is often charged alongside battery on a peace officer. The reason being an arrest isn’t always a calm encounter. Being nervous or clumsy can be stretched by law enforcers to become serious, thus leading to charges under PC 243(b)(c) and resisting arrest. Also, it is essential to note that aside from resisting arrest, this crime also includes other activities such as:
- Interrupting law enforcer’s travel to a scene of an accident or crime
- Impeding authorities from cross-examining witnesses
- Attempting to interfere with police while they are monitoring a suspect in custody
If you are convicted for the crime of resisting arrest, you are subject to fines of no more than $1000 or incarceration in the county jail for one year. A misdemeanor battery on a peace officer has consequences similar to resisting arrest. However, PC 148(a)(1) is a lesser charge because it will not affect your criminal record in the manner a PC 243(b)(c) conviction would.
Being arrested with the offense of resisting arrest doesn’t make you guilty or mean you will be charged with the offense. With an excellent attorney, you can argue that you are falsely accused. This defense is going to hold in court because cases of police officers exaggerating facts because of anger, revenge, or jealousy are common. Other defenses include arguing that there was no probable cause for the arrest or you didn’t act deliberately.
2. Disturbing the Peace
According to PC 415, it is illegal to fight, challenge someone to fight, or use fighting words in a public place or deliberately and spitefully disturb an individual by making a loud noise. The offense of disturbing peace is also charged along with the battery on a peace officer. It happens when someone is being arrested for making a loud noise or fighting people in public. In the process of arrest, if the person hurts the arresting officer, he or she will be facing an additional charge of violating PC 243(b)(c).
PC 415 can be charged as an infraction or a misdemeanor. When facing infraction charges, a conviction will attract a fine of two hundred dollars. On the other hand, a misdemeanor conviction will attract the following punishment:
- Summary probation
- As much as $400
- Three months’ incarceration sentence in jail
3. Sightseeing at an Emergency
California PC 402 (a) criminalizes lingering at a scene of an emergency hindering emergency personnel from engaging in their duties. The majority of those people arrested for this offense are the ones that find themselves on the wrong side of law enforcers during a tense time. Most of those people are victims of police misconduct and are wrongfully accused. To be convicted as per PC 402 (a), the prosecution must prove the following elements:
- You went to or stopped at the scene of an emergency
- You did so with the intent of viewing the scene or the work being done by emergency personnel while coping with a crisis.
- When you acted, it was necessary for the emergency personnel or their vehicles to be at the scene or moving to or from the scene to protect lives and property.
- By doing so, you obstructed police officers, military personnel, or emergency personnel from engaging in their duties of handling an emergency.
- Being at the scene of the emergency was not part of the duties of your job
When being arrested for sightseeing an emergency and in the process, you hurt an officer willfully, whether the injuries are severe or not, you will be charged with both PC 402 (a) and PC 243 (b)(c). If you are arrested in an enclosed natural disaster emergency scene, you are going to face additional charges. When convicted under misdemeanor PC 402 (a), the potential penalties are:
- Summary probation
- One hundred and eighty days’ jail sentence
- As much as $1000
Keep in mind that most of the arrests made for this offense are made just because you made the work of the police or emergency personnel difficult. Because of that, it is easy for police officers to abuse their power and accuse you of violating PC 402 (a) just because you got to their nerves. The good news is that people now understand this happens, and they choose to hire a criminal defense attorney once they have been arrested. With the right legal representation, you can argue that you didn’t wander the scene of the emergency on purpose. You can claim that you found yourself at the emergency scene, and your objective was not to view the activities of the emergency personnel.
Also, another argument that you can assert is that you didn’t prevent the police or emergency personnel from performing their activities. The law doesn’t prohibit gawking at the scene of an emergency as long as you don’t interfere with the ongoing operations.
Find a San Jose Criminal Attorney Near Me
When you or a loved one is arrested for battery on a peace officer, you must contact the San Jose Criminal Attorney Law Firm. Our attorneys take a different approach to these cases because peace officers often exaggerate the truth to build a case. Keep in mind that in the court, it will be your word against that of the victim who is an officer. If you are not careful, the jury might trust the word of the officer more than yours, thus getting you convicted. But when you have an attorney from our firm by your side, you are guaranteed they will conduct a thorough background check on the officer you are accused of battering. We will investigate the record of the officer, find out if the officer has a history of PTSD, and how he or she typically behaves when working. Doing so will help us shed light on whether the officer exaggerated or fabricated the allegations. Based on the circumstances surrounding the arrest, we will have the charges dropped or reduced. Call us today at 408-622-0204 for free office or phone consultation.