In order to prove you guilty of battery on a peace officer under Penal Code section 243(b) or 243(c), the prosecutor must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that: 1) you willfully touched your target; 2) you did so in a violent or offensive manner; 3) your target was a peace officer or other protected person engaged in the performance of his or her duties; 4) you knew or reasonably should have known that your target was a peace officer engaged in the performance of his or her duties.
Who is a peace officer?
A peace officer is normally any individual employed by a law enforcement agency. This category includes police officers, deputy sheriffs, California Highway Patrol Officers, transit officers, port officers, security guards, or anybody in police uniform performing peace officer duties. Other protected individuals include custodian officers, firefighters, EMT’s and paramedics, animal control officers, probation officers, lifeguards, and doctors and nurses providing emergency medical care.
When is an officer considered “performing his or her duties?”
Penal Code 243(b) and (c) apply to you only if the protected person whom you allegedly battered was engaged in the performance of his or duties. Assume that you and an off duty police officer get into a drunkard bar fight. You strike this individual. At the time when you struck him, he was not acting as a police officer or engaging in his regular duties as a police officer.
“Violent or offensive manner”
The slightest touching, if done in an objectively violent or rude manner, constitutes offensive touching even if it did not result in pain, harm, or injury of any kind. For example, if you slap at an officer’s hand as he stretches out his hand to take your driver’s license, you can be charged with battery on a peace officer. Even though the touching did not cause the officer pain, harm, or injury, you meant it as an offensive and rude gesture.
Also note that the touching need not be direct. Battery can also include any violent or offensive touching that is closely tied to the alleged victim, such as clothing he or she is wearing or an objecting he or she is holding.
You “willfully” committed the violent or offensive touching
Offensive touching upon a peace officer must be willful to constitute battery on a peace officer. Willful means intentional or on purpose. You need not have intended to break the law, hurt the officer, or cause him or her harm. All that is required is that you intentionally committed the offensive touching.
You “knew” that the officer was a peace officer and that he was engaged the performance of his or her duties
You are guilty of battery on a peace officer only if you knew or reasonably should have known that the person whom you allegedly battered was a peace officer or a protected person. Whether you had actual knowledge or should have known of this factor depends on a variety of factors such as whether the alleged peace officer was wearing a uniform, whether he or she clearly informed you of his or her status as a peace officer, and whether he or she was driving in a marked police car, ambulance, or any other vehicle that clearly indicated his or her status as a protected person.
PENALTIES FOR BATTERY ON A PEACE OFFICER
Simple battery on a peace officer is prosecuted as a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor battery on a peace officer subjects you to informal probation, a maximum county jail term of one year, and a maximum fine of $2,000.00. If the battery on a peace officer caused injury to the officer, then the offense is a wobbler, which means that it will be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on your criminal history and the extent and severity of the officer’s injuries. If charged as a misdemeanor, battery with injury on a peace officer will subject you to an increased fine of $10,000, but only if the alleged victim is a peace officer as opposed to any other protected person. If charged as a felony, battery with injury on a peace officer will subject you to formal probation, an incarceration sentence of 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years, and a fine up to $10,000.
What is considered “injury”?
An injury for purposes of battery with injury on a peace officer is any injury that required medical attention. The officer need not have sought medical attention or received actual medical treatment. For example, Joe punches an officer in the face. The officer goes to a physician who examines his face and finds no broken bones or impairment of any functions. The physician then immediately releases the officer without any treatment. But because of the punch, the officer suffers excruciating headaches which prevent him from working for several days. Even though the officer did not receive medical treatment, a jury might find that he suffered an “injury” for purposes of code section 243(b) or (c).
DEFENSES TO BATTERY ON A PEACE OFFICER
You committed the battery in self-defense or in defense of another
If you reasonably believed that you or someone else was in imminent danger of bodily harm or offensive touching and you used force reasonably necessary to deflect that harm, then you can assert self-defense. You can assert self defense only if you were afraid of imminent bodily harm or offensive touching. An officer’s offensive words to you alone are insufficient to warrant this defense.
You acted accidentally and not willfully
You must have willfully touched the officer for you to be convicted of a 243(b) or (c). Assume that Joe is being restrained from behind by a police officer. Because of a medical condition, Joe has seizures when he is under stress or shock. As the officer clasps Joe’s hands from behind, Joe has a seizure and as a result ends up striking the officer. Joe did not intend to touch the officer. The shock of the arrest and restraint triggered Joe’s seizure. Joe therefore did not act willfully and thus cannot be found guilty of battery on a peace officer.
The peace officer or protected person you allegedly battered was not performing his or her duties
If the officer or protected person you allegedly battered was not engaged in the performance of his or her duties, then you cannot be found guilty of battering a peace officer. Even if an officer is wearing a police uniform or announces to you that he or she is a peace officer, he cannot be deemed performing his or her duties if he or she unlawfully arrests or detains you, commits police brutality against you, violates your fourth amendment rights by conducting an unlawful search or seizure, or commits racial profiling. Any of these conducts mean that the officer was NOT engaged in lawful performance of his or her duties.
HOW THE LAW OFFICE OF NEGIN YAMINI CAN HELP YOU IN YOUR BATTERY ON A PEACE OFFICER CASE
Actual Case: In People v. Byron D., (Case No. NA099427), the defendant, Mr. D., was charged with multiple counts against a peace officer including battery upon a peace officer. The officer claimed that Mr. D had attempted to grab his gun from behind and that thereby also struck him. After conducting a through background check, Negin’s investigator discovered that the officer had been severely injured as a combat soldier in Afghanistan. Negin’s investigator also discovered that the officer suffered and had been receiving treatment for severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). For Negin, this discovery suggested that the officer’s PTSD might have triggered certain hallucinations or exaggerations resulting in a false police report. Negin carefully and strategically used the officer’s record of PTSD to negotiate on behalf of Mr. D. As a result of Negin’s efforts, Mr. F received a reduced sentence, far less than what he would have received had he gone to trial and been convicted.
Negin’s Strategy: Battery on a peace officer involves the officer’s word versus your word. For that reason, thorough examination of the officer’s background and how he normally behaves on the job can shed important light on whether he or she exaggerated, overreacted, or outright fabricated the allegations against you. For that reason, Negin thoroughly examines the officer’s record, along with the specific facts and circumstances surrounding the officer’s allegations against you.