Battery on its own is a serious offense in California. However, the offense carries more severe penalties when committed against police officers and other protected persons. Battery on a peace officer could result in felony charges depending on the severity of the offense, including whether the victim suffers any injury. Whether the offense arises from a misunderstanding, you should protect yourself by hiring a criminal attorney to help you mount a defense to fight your charges. If you are facing charges of battery on a peace officer in Los Angeles, we invite you to get in touch with us at Los Angeles Criminal Attorney so that we can help defend you.
Legal Definition of Battery on a Peace Officer
According to PC 243 (c)(2), it is a crime to willfully and unlawfully touch a peace officer offensively. Under the statute, you are guilty of battery on a peace officer if you commit the act against a peace officer engaged in their official duty, whether they are on duty or not.
For you to be charged with the offense, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- You willingly and unlawfully touched another person in a harmful or offensive way
- The person you touched was a peace officer engaged in their official duties
- When you touched the victim, you should have reasonably known that the person was a peace officer currently engaged in their duties
California defines peace officers as people who help enforce the law. They include police officers, sheriffs, the Attorney General, prosecutors, and other law enforcement personnel. Peace officers may also include:
- Doctors or healthcare personnel responding to an emergency
- Marshals working in the California Department of Justice
- Port wardens
- Members of a search and rescue team
- Employees of the Department of Justice, including investigators and special agents
- Employees of the Corrections and Rehabilitation Department
- Employees of the Parks and Recreation Department
- Officers tasked with protecting public resources such as those of the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
Unlawful touching refers to any contact that is committed rudely or angrily, no matter how slight. It does not have to cause any injury to the victim or be intended to cause any injury for you to be guilty of battery. You are also guilty of touching someone unlawfully even if the contact is indirect, for instance, by touching them through their clothes or with an object.
Another important element is that the officer must be engaged in their official duties, whether or not they are on the clock. Since police officers are allowed to work in a private capacity, you could also be charged with battery on a peace officer if the offense occurs when they are working in a private capacity, for example, as a security guard.
You must also have reasonably known that the person was a peace officer when you committed the offense. Some indicators that someone is a peace officer include:
- They have distinctive uniform
- They have a badge indicating that they are a peace officer (sheriff or police)
- They are in a distinctive vehicle that clearly shows they are a peace officer
Possible Legal Defenses
Charges of battery on a peace officer are serious. When brought against you, you should contact a defense attorney immediately to begin preparing a defense. The goal of any defense strategy is to challenge whether the evidence the prosecution has is sufficient to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
To develop a defense strategy, your attorney may use legal defenses such as:
Every person in California has the right to protect themselves from harm, even if that harm comes from a peace officer. Interactions with peace officers that may create the need to defend yourself include police misconduct and brutality.
A common example of police misconduct that results in battery charges is the use of excessive force during an arrest. Police officers are allowed to use excessive force only when it’s necessary.
When a police officer unjustifiably poses a threat to you or another person, you are within your rights to protect yourself. For example, if unprovoked, the police officer attacks you, and you have a reasonable fear that they could hurt or kill you, then you have the right to defend yourself.
Note: self-defense is different from resisting an arrest. Resisting an arrest is a crime that could land you in additional trouble. Even if a police officer is illegally detaining or arresting you, the best place to fight it out is in a courtroom.
No Willful Touching
Battery offenses occur when you willfully touch another person rudely or offensively. They do not arise from accidental actions. Therefore, you can use this as a defense if you accidentally touched a peace officer.
The Officer Was Not Engaged in their Official Duties
If the peace officer was not engaged in their official duties when the offense occurred, you could use this as a defense against these charges.
No Knowledge that the Victim Was a Peace Officer
One of the elements of battery on a peace officer is that you should have reasonably known that the victim was a peace officer. However, if you were unaware of the victim's status as a peace officer, you can use this as a defense against the charges.
Using this defense is likely to reduce the charge to simple battery unless there are other aggravating factors in your case, such as using a deadly weapon to commit the offense.
False accusations are common in battery charges. Fortunately, when working with an experienced defense attorney, they can find inconsistencies in the evidence provided and show that you were not guilty of committing battery on the peace officer.
Penalties of Battery On A Peace Officer
Battery on a peace officer is a wobbler punishable by up to a year in jail for a misdemeanor and up to three years in prison for felony battery on a peace officer.
The judge can also enhance your sentence for a felony offense if the officer suffered a great or serious bodily injury following the offense. Under this sentence enhancement, you face an additional six years in prison to your sentence.
Some offenses related to battery on a peace office include:
- Simple battery
- Aggravated battery
- Assault on a peace officer
- Resisting arrest
- Resisting an executive officer
If the prosecution cannot prove all elements of battery on a peace officer, they may settle on a simple battery charge. Simple battery is a misdemeanor that carries a sentence of up to six months in county jail. The fine, at a maximum of $2000, is also lower than if you were convicted of battery on a peace officer, which carries a maximum fine of $10,000.
Aggravated battery under PC 243 d refers to touching another person in a harmful or offensive way that results in serious injury to the victim. Aggravated battery is a wobbler offense carrying a jail term of up to one year for a misdemeanor and up to four years for a felony conviction. You may also face an additional three to six years on your felony sentence if you caused the victim great bodily injury.
Assault on a Police Officer
Assaulting a peace officer occurs when you attempt to commit a violent injury on a police officer or another peace officer. You can be charged with assault on a peace officer if you willfully acted in a way that would result in the application of force on a peace officer. While committing the act, you must have known or reasonably known that the victim was a police officer engaged in their lawful duties.
Assaulting a peace officer is a misdemeanor that carries a one-year jail sentence and up to $2000 in fines.
Resisting an arrest is the offense of willfully delaying or obstructing a peace officer as they perform their legal duties. Resisting an arrest could include actions such as:
- Preventing a police officer from applying handcuffs on you or another person
- Providing false information to law enforcement officials
- Preventing an emergency response officer from providing medical assistance to another person
Resisting an arrest is a misdemeanor carrying a one-year jail sentence if convicted.
Resisting an Executive Officer
Resisting an executive officer refers to the offense of using threats or violence to prevent an executive officer from performing their lawful duties. Executive officers include police officers, public defenders, government prosecutors, elected officials, judges, and sheriffs.
Resisting an executive officer is a wobbler. Misdemeanor resisting carries a sentence of up to a year in county jail, while a felony carries a jail sentence of up to three years. Both misdemeanor and felony offenses carry a fine of up to $10,000.
The criminal court process does not end when you are convicted for battery on a peace officer or a related offense. You may need to pursue additional legal channels to:
- Request a court to overturn your conviction
- Appeal for sentencing modification
- Get your criminal record expunged
You should work with an attorney to pursue the different channels available after your conviction to achieve these outcomes. Here are some of the steps you may take:
Request for a Conviction Review
Conviction Review Units in California are dedicated to promoting fair and just sentencing. This means that, if you are convicted, you can request a conviction review if you believe that you received an excessive sentence compared to the offense you commuted.
The District Attorney can also recommend resentencing if it believes you received a harsher prison sentence that no longer serves the interest of justice.
When your request a conviction review, the DA's office considers the following factors:
- Your conduct following the conviction
- Input from the victim
- Evidence that you have a low risk of future violence
File a Motion to Withdraw a Plea
California PC 1028 allows you to withdraw a guilty or no contest plea if you can show good cause. Good reasons for filing a motion to withdraw a plea include:
- You did not understand the consequences of the plea
- You entered the plea involuntarily
- An incompetent attorney represented you
You also must present clear and convincing evidence that you would have entered a different plea if you were aware of all the facts. For instance, if there was a language barrier or you were not represented by an attorney, there's a good chance you were unaware of the consequences of your plea.
In other cases, your attorney fails to educate you on the consequences of your conviction. For example, a guilty plea may harm your immigration status and professional licensing or result in mandatory incarceration.
In other cases, you may be represented by an incompetent attorney who fails to:
- Investigate your case thoroughly
- Present mitigating evidence for less severe consequences
- Fails to present an appropriate defense
A motion to withdraw a plea typically comes before the sentencing. Requesting a plea withdrawal through a Writ of Habeas Corpus or an expungement is still possible.
If your motion to withdraw a plea is successful, your case will begin afresh at the arraignment. This means all the deals and agreements made in the previous pretrial motions will be voided. Therefore, you may face the original charges initially pressed against you.
If you lose the motion to withdraw a plea, you will be sentenced based on the previous pretrial agreement or trial results. You can still challenge the conviction by filing an appeal or requesting an expungement.
File an Appeal
Instead of a conviction review, you can file an appeal with an appellate court. The appellate court reviews the trial to determine whether the prosecution acted unethically, whether you had adequate and competent legal representation, and whether the jury issued a correct verdict.
The appeal is not a new trial; neither does the appellate court admit new evidence. You can file an appeal if:
- Jury misconduct
- The judge abused their discretion
- Prosecutorial misconduct
- Improper exclusion or admission of evidence
- Insufficient assistance by legal counsel
- Sentencing errors such as the judge ignoring sentencing rules
- Unlawful arrest
- Insufficient evidence for a guilty verdict
If you intend to appeal a criminal conviction, you should file a notice of appeal within 30 (for a misdemeanor) and 60 (for a felony) days after the judgment. You must adhere to these strict deadlines; otherwise, you forfeit your right to appeal your conviction.
If you win your appeal, the appellate court may issue one of three rulings:
- Reverse your conviction and dismiss the charges against you
- Order a new trial
- Sending back the case to the trial case to remediate the error made during the trial
File a Motion for a New Trial
A motion for a new trial under PC 1181 allows you to request the court to set aside your conviction and try you afresh for the offense. You could file for a new trial if your case had instances of:
- Insufficient evidence
- Jury misconduct
- Prosecutorial misconduct
- Legal errors
- Loss of court records
- New evidence
- Wrong findings
- Failure of the prosecution to disclose favorable evidence
- Material changes in the law
A motion for a new trial varies significantly from an appeal, although the grounds for both are similar. In an appeal, the appellate court reviews a case for procedural errors, while in a motion for a new trial, you file a petition to the trial court. The timing also differs as an appeal occurs after the sentencing judgment, while a motion for a new trial must occur 20-30 days after a guilty verdict and before the sentencing hearing or probation judgment.
If the court approves your motion, a fresh trial with a new jury will be conducted. You may also be released on bail if you are currently in custody.
If the court denies the motion, the case will proceed to the sentencing phase, but you could still appeal the conviction. In some cases, the court might reduce your charges and sentencing instead of a new trial or a conviction for the original offense.
File a Motion for Resentencing
Let’s say the court finds you guilty of felony battery on a peace officer and sentences you to the maximum allowed sentence of three years. You can appeal to the court to reduce or modify your sentence by either reducing your sentence or modifying the conditions of your sentence. You can file a motion for resentencing for both misdemeanor and felony offenses.
In most cases, the court is likely to approve a resentencing if:
- A clerical error occurred
- The sentence was illegal
- The court made a judicial error
- There have been significant changes in the law
In some cases, the case may recall a case on its own within 120 days after the sentence to issue a lesser sentence than was initially issued. In most cases, the court may recall a sentence based on:
- Your behavior while incarcerated
- Your risk of future violence
- The interests of justice
- Your rehabilitation record
- Your health. Courts may recall a sentence when an inmate is terminally ill and likely to die within six months. When this happens, the court must determine that the prisoner does not pose a threat to public safety. This may also be the case if a prisoner is medically incapacitated, for instance, in a coma.
Request an Early Termination of Probation
Probation is a sentencing option when convicted of battery on a peace officer. As part of summary or formal probation, the court issues a set of probation conditions, including:
- The duration of probation
- Community service hours
- Rehabilitation orders
You may request early termination of probation if being on probation:
- Restricts you from gainful employment
- Prevents you from conducting necessary travel
- Hinders your career advancement
Getting an early termination of your probation allows you to expunge your criminal records sooner and apply for additional post-conviction relief, such as restoring your gun rights. It also minimizes the risk of a probation violation.
You can file your request at any time, but most judges typically allow for termination after at least 12 months of summary probation or 18 months of formal probation. Once you file your motion, the court will assess factors such as your conduct during the probation period and adherence to the conditions of your probation sentence. Other influencing factors include:
- The severity of the offense you committed
- Your criminal history
- The DA’s opinion
- The negative impacts of probation on your life (for instance, difficulty qualifying for loans or other benefits)
If the court grants your motion, you will be free from all probation conditions and can proceed to expunge your criminal record.
Request for an Expungement of Your Criminal Record
Battery on a peace officer is one of the offenses that can be expunged from your criminal record. Expunging a criminal record offers numerous benefits, the most significant being that it reduces the burden of your criminal conviction on your daily life.
A conviction can affect your ability to secure gainful employment, financing, housing, and even education. Expunging your record means that potential employers, landlords, and credit agencies cannot access the expunged criminal record. However, law enforcement officials can still access your criminal record.
You are also not legally obligated to disclose the conviction to an employer unless they have offered a conditional offer of employment.
During the request for an expungement, you can also apply to have a felony battery conviction reduced to a misdemeanor before expunging the conviction.
Before you can expunge your records, you must complete your sentence or probation. You may also request early termination of probation. You also have to pay for the process. In Los Angeles, the fees incurred are $120. You may check whether you qualify for financial assistance if you cannot pay the fee.
Note: if your arrest did not result in a conviction, you could apply for the sealing and destroying of an arrest record. The record sealing process differs from the expungement as record sealing occurs when you haven’t been convicted for the following reasons:
- You were acquitted at trial
- Your case was dismissed
- The prosecution did not file charges after your arrest
Find a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Whenever you are facing criminal charges for battery on a peace officer, one of the steps to take is to hire a criminal defense attorney to help you fight the charges against you. Los Angeles Criminal Attorney provides legal counsel and representation to clients across Los Angeles who are charged with battery on a peace officer. You can schedule your free consultation with our attorneys at 424-333-0943 to discuss your case.