Assaulting a public official is a serious offense in California, capable of attracting felony or misdemeanor charges. As an arrested person, you want to understand the nature of the offense and the possible approaches that the prosecutor may take to prove your guilt. Since the criminal trial process involves assessing case facts to establish your involvement in the offense, working with an experienced criminal defense lawyer is advisable. Their input is essential for building credible defenses and increasing your chances of a favorable outcome.
At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we provide excellent defense services for any client facing an assault on a public official charge. We ensure we disclose important information about your case early enough. We will prepare you for the process and collaborate to strengthen your case. Contacting us soon after your arrest is highly advisable to help us obtain as much information as possible regarding your arrest and charging process.
An Overview of Assault on a Public Officer Offense
Legal definitions play a significant role in helping you understand the elements of the crime in question. In return, you can establish whether these elements match your actions at the time in question, warranting your arrest.
Section 271.1 of the California Penal Code defines assault on a public officer as an aggravated assault on any person in public office. This means that your actions were aimed at the public official based on their position and that you sought to attack them in response to their mandated duties.
Based on the definition, the criminal court hearing your case must establish several factors to arrive at a reasonable verdict. In doing so, the presiding judge and jury assess if your actions met all elements of the crime. Moreover, the prosecutor’s ability to present your actions directly influences the court’s decision.
The Elements the Prosecution Must Prove
When the prosecutor formally charges you, they will proceed to file a case against you and present it before the relevant criminal court. Afterward, you will receive a hearing schedule to inform you of your expected court appearance dates.
Usually, the trial process requires the prosecutor to show that you are guilty of the charged offense, meaning that they hold the burden of proof. Furthermore, the law also imposes a high standard of proof that requires the prosecutor to establish all case elements beyond a reasonable doubt.
Hence, the prosecution team works hand in hand with the investigation officers to obtain the required evidence and use it to build a case against you. You should expect the prosecutor to tackle each element of crime sufficiently, as their goal is to ensure you face penalties for your alleged wrongdoings.
Although the prosecutor has access to multiple evidentiary sources, they still must comply with all evidence laws applicable in a criminal case. These restrictions may give the prosecutor a hard time proving your involvement in every crime element.
As a result, your criminal defense lawyer can easily spot weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case and raise them later in your defense hearing. The main elements of the crime for the prosecutor to establish in your case are:
You Assaulted a Person/People
Assaulting someone involves targeting them and attempting to cause grievous harm when you have access to them. Additionally, an assault requires you to introduce reasonable fear of harm to the targeted person, meaning they are aware of your attempt to harm them. Thus, the occurrence works best when you are close to the victim, allowing you to introduce your attack mode.
The factors that the prosecutor focuses on in an assault on a public official case include the attack you intended on the targeted victim. For example, you may have thrown harmful objects at them or used a weapon to create fear or panic in the aggrieved person.
Moreover, assault charges apply even when your attempts to cause harm to the victim fail. The primary element for the prosecutor is that you had the criminal intent to attack and took positive steps to do so. Hence, you are still answerable for the alleged offense even if the person you intended to assault escaped without serious harm.
You should also remember that the prosecutor will apply the same analysis if you target more than one person. As long as the prosecution team shows that you intended to harm the multiple crime victims, they will present evidence to support their case.
Examples of evidence supporting this crime element include any surveillance footage, witness statements, or police reports filed soon after the incident. Probable witnesses include security personnel who protect the official in question or any other person at the crime scene.
The Assaulted Person is a Public Official
Secondly, the prosecutor should prove that the alleged victim was a public official, meaning that your charges are correct. To do this, the prosecutor focuses on showing that the official was an active office holder at the time of your assault. Doing so is important to avoid potential inconsistencies with the case facts.
For example, you would have reasonable grounds to raise an issue if the public official was retired or had yet to assume office when you allegedly assaulted them. Since the prosecutor anticipates these issues, they may source the public official’s work documents, including their contracts to prove that they are rightfully in office.
You also want to understand who falls within the public official category to anticipate the prosecutor’s arguments. The title covers any person working for the government to promote service delivery to the public. Public officials work in different fields, but all share a common element of government appointment and duty to the public.
Examples of public officials include persons in leadership positions like the president, vice president, or governors. Additionally, any persons working in the judicial field to promote access to justice also fall within the public official category. For example, prosecutors, public defenders, and police officers can file a complaint against you, resulting in an assault charge.
Furthermore, local, state or federal judges and appointed commissioners, mayors, or state secretaries are public officials. Based on this list, the prosecutor will highlight the aggrieved party’s office and confirm to the court that the victim qualifies as an official.
Your Assault Aimed to Stop the Official from Performing Public Duties
Lastly, the prosecutor has to prove that your assault was politically motivated. Specifically, they should produce evidence to demonstrate that you intended to interfere with the state official’s performance of public duties.
For example, if the state appoints an official from a party you do not support, you may have reacted negatively. Thus, the prosecutor may investigate your reactions to look for evidence linking you to a planned assault. If any information portrays you as a radical person who resolves violent acts like assault to send a statement, the prosecutor will highlight it in court to support their case.
Alternatively, the prosecutor may need to prove that you assaulted the public official as a reaction to their performance of duties. For example, your charges may involve attacking a judge who issued a judgment against you. If so, the prosecution team must source all relevant evidence that shows your intentions stemmed from the official’s verdict against you.
Defenses for Assaulting a Public Official
Your criminal defense attorney is responsible for helping you organize your defenses ahead of the defense hearing. The defense proceedings occur after the prosecutor closes their case, giving you time to identify the issue you intend to raise.
When working on your defenses, be sure to capture inconsistencies in the prosecutor’s presentation because they may cast reasonable doubt on their case. Additionally, you want to engage your defense attorney and provide any information they may need to strengthen your case. For example, revealing it before the defense hearing is important if you had previously omitted any information surrounding your case.
Some applicable defenses for assaulting a public official include:
You Lacked Criminal Intent to Assault the Official
The criminal intention is among the most critical elements for the prosecutor to prove. This is because any intention without criminal intention qualifies as an accident, meaning you may avoid criminal charges.
Therefore, you can rely on this defense to show that the alleged assault was accidental and that you did not intend to harm any public official. Supporting your defense with sufficient evidence is necessary, as failure to do so only amounts to refuting the prosecutor’s accusations. By working closely with your lawyer, you can establish the most appropriate evidence to present.
Your Actions Were in Self Defense
Self-defense is a good counterargument to the prosecutor’s case, provided you acted within the legal confines applicable to defending yourself. Firstly, the law requires that you must have reasonably believed to be in danger when you decide to attack a public official.
You will need to elaborate on the circumstances that made you fear for your safety, including specific actions that the public official or security team took against you. Supporting your narration with evidence is highly beneficial for your case, as it removes possible doubts from the judge's and jury’s minds.
Secondly, you must demonstrate that you lacked any other alternative but to use force to protect yourself. This means you must have lacked an opportunity to escape the scene or call for help, leaving you to retaliate and commit the assault.
Lastly, the judge must find that the force you used in self-defense was proportional to the danger you faced. The law includes this restriction to prevent serious injuries or fatalities when they are avoidable. Notably, each case presents different circumstances, so the judge applies discretion in establishing the proportionality of your actions.
Yours is a Case of Mistaken Identity
Some arrested persons may face false accusations based on mistaken identity. Subsequently, you can rely on this defense where you believe you face the assault charges wrongfully. For example, you may have been close to the primary offender but faced the charges together.
When presenting on this defense, you want to present as much evidence as possible to detach yourself from the events leading up to the assault. You will only convince the judge of your innocence if your evidence casts reasonable doubt on the prosecutor’s case and raises facts that introduce a different perspective to your accusations.
There Were Irregularities and Police Misconduct in Your Arrest
Finally, you can cite police irregularities and misconduct as your primary defense, especially if the law enforcement officers force you to confess to a crime you did not commit. If so, you should be prepared to demonstrate how the misconduct affected your constitutional rights to remain silent and not to give self-incriminating evidence.
If the judge and jury find that your defense has merit, they will likely issue a judgment in your favor. Hence, you may avoid the legal repercussions of assaulting a public officer with a strong defense.
Penalties for Assaulting a Public Official
When you conclude your defense case, the judge and jury will take time to deliberate on all findings and assess any aggravating or mitigating factors. If the prosecutor successfully proved your involvement in all elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, the judge issues a judgment in their favor.
Consequently, you will be guilty of the charges and are liable to face the penalties included in the Penal Code. Assault on a public official is a wobbler crime and may result in misdemeanor or felony charges. Hence, you will face either a misdemeanor or felony penalty based on the initial charge.
Misdemeanor penalties may result in a sentence of up to one year in county jail or a fine payment of up to $1000. Conversely, felony penalties may result in up to three years or a maximum fine of $10,000.
You should note that the judge can adjust the sentences by relying on several case factors. They include:
Whether Your Assault Caused Grievous Body Harm
Although you do not have to cause serious injuries to face an assault on a public official, the impact of your actions provides the judge with an objective basis for adjusting your sentence. For example, if the targeted public official suffered serious harm while trying to escape your attempted attack, you are still responsible for their harm.
Similarly, if you lodged your attack indirectly by throwing harmful objects like stones, metal, or any other sturdy item, you are responsible for the harm that the victim faces. Consequently, the judge will check the prosecutor’s presentation and assess the injuries and losses the aggrieved party sustained. You will likely receive a sentence enhancement if they face serious health risks or losses from your attack.
Whether You Assaulted Multiple Public Officials at Once
Additionally, targeting more than one public official at a time indicates that you planned your attack and aimed to retaliate against a public office department. Due to this, the judge may mark you as a potential source of mayhem and insecurity to the general community. If so, you are more likely to face a sentence enhancement and even receive the maximum sentence.
However, this outcome is only probable if the prosecutor’s case showed that you had made deliberate plans to target multiple public officials. Thus, if the effects of your attack were a natural flow of events from targeting one official, your sentence may be more lenient.
Whether You are a Repeat Offender
First-time offenders are more likely to receive lenient sentences compared to repeat offenders in most cases. Moreover, a repeat offender for the same crime will also face harsher penalties in the subsequent trial. This is because their actions disregard the previous court interventions in preventing a repeat offense.
Furthermore, the presiding judge may enhance the sentence as a deterrence from further involvement in overall crime. If you have an existing criminal history, you want to work closely with your criminal defense attorney so that your records do not cause a significant increase in sentence enhancement. Your lawyer can help by issuing a mitigation statement on your behalf before the sentencing hearing.
The Strength of Your Defense Case
Presenting a solid defense case may also impact your sentence, so you must prepare a compelling presentation. For example, while the prosecutor may have proved you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, your attorney may raise a compelling counterargument in your defense. Therefore, the judge will consider the presentation in adjusting your sentence to ensure they issue penalties proportionate to the level of harm, if any, that you caused.
Offenses Related to Assault on a Public Official
Although your primary charge may remain as an assault on a public official, learning of related offenses can be helpful. Thanks to the information, you can establish whether the prosecutor entered a correct charge against you or whether your case facts reflect a different offense.
Further, if your case involves two or more counts for multiple wrongdoings, you also want to understand the possible charges you face to help you with your defense. Thus, your defense attorney provides additional information depending on how relevant the related charges are to your current case.
Some offenses related to committing assault on a public official are:
Assault on a Police Officer, PC 241
When you attempt to attack a police officer, you violate the provisions of section 241 of the Penal Code and are answerable in a criminal court. The provision protects police officers specifically because they are in a direct line of duty with the public. Subsequently, upholding their safety is necessary to help them conduct their duties in upholding peace and order.
If the judge finds you guilty, you may face misdemeanor or felony charges, depending on the case facts. Hence, consulting your criminal defense attorney on your case development is essential.
Assault With a Deadly Weapon, PC 245
Additionally, committing assault using a deadly weapon on any public member attracts legal consequences as guided by section 245 of the Penal Code. Similar to committing assault on a public official, the prosecutor will aim to prove that you tried to attack another person using a deadly weapon.
Even where the victim in question does not sustain injuries, you may still be answerable for your criminal intent to cause harm. You should also note that the crime attracts felony penalties in extreme cases, resulting in a prison sentence of three to six years. Aggravating factors may also enhance the sentence, depending on whether the victim sustained grievous harm.
Committing Battery, PC 242
Committing battery varies slightly from assault based on whether your attempt to attack your target was successful. While assault cases involve indirect contact or failed attempts to cause bodily harm, battery accusations arise when you gain physical access to the victim’s body and cause harm.
Noteworthy, you do not necessarily have to cause severe injuries to the targeted person. The prosecutor only needs to prove that you invaded their space and had physical contact. For example, forcefully kissing someone amounts to battery, just as slapping or pushing them does.
Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me
You may be unsure of the legal repercussions when you or a loved one faces assault on a public official charge. You may also be unfamiliar with various criminal procedures, leaving you in a disadvantaged position compared to the prosecution. As a result, you want to partner with an experienced lawyer to help you assess your case and develop strong defenses on your behalf. A skilled lawyer should inform you of the prosecution team's potential strategies and provide alternatives to counter them.
At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, you will receive high-quality criminal defense services tailored to meet your case's demands. We understand that each case presents different circumstances, so we immerse ourselves in conducting thorough research and preparing suitable solutions. With our help, you can look forward to increased chances of an acquittal or a significant sentence reduction. Furthermore, our legal support is available throughout your trial. For more information on how to counter assault on a public official accusation, contact us at 424-333-0943.