If you have been arrested for battery on a law enforcer in Los Angeles, you could be wondering what the charges entail. Will you be charged with an assault? Will you be charged with a felony or California misdemeanor? Will the charges remain on the criminal record irrespective of whether you are convicted or not? And if found guilty, how severe are the penalties? To get answers to these questions, you need to speak with our attorneys from The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm. For more information about the charge, please read the information below.
What is Battery Against a Peace Officer in California?
California Penal Code sections 243 (b), and 243 (c) are battery committed on police laws. Under these code sections, it is an offense to unlawfully and willfully touch a peace officer or any protected officer in a harmful or offensive way while they are executing their official duties.
To be found guilty of violating PC 243, the prosecutor should prove the facts of the offense below beyond any reasonable doubt:
- The victim is a police officer or a protected individual who was performing their duties
- You unlawfully and willfully touch the alleged victim in an offensive or harmful way
- When you did this, you were aware or should have been aware that the alleged victim is a member of the protected class performing their duties
Definition of Key Legal Terms
The above facts of the offense constitute the legal meaning of battery committed against a law enforcement officer. Therefore, to comprehend the definition, here is an overview of the phrases and terms:
Police Officer and Protected Individual
California Penal Code Section 243 PC is used to punish battery committed against a law enforcer who is an employee of law enforcement authorities. The group consists of:
- Harbor or port police
- Officers working with the sheriff department
- Transit police
- Highway Patrol officials
- Police officers
Additionally, a police officer who is working as a casual or part-time private security guard can belong to this group provided he/she is engaged in peace officer responsibilities and is in a police uniform.
The battery committed against a law enforcement officer law goes ahead to include public officers and other experts who aren't law enforcement officials like:
- Custodial officers
- Security officers
- Traffic officers
- Process servers
- Custody assistants
- Animal control officials
- Code enforcement officials
- Probation department employees
- Nurses or doctors offering emergency medical assistance
Performing Their Duties
Penal Code 243 PC only applies if the defendant committed the battery against a peace officer who was doing their official duties.
For instance, Josephine is at a grocery shop when she gets into a heated argument with Peterson. As a result, Josephine hits Peterson. It is later discovered that Peterson is an animal control officer. However, he wasn't engaged in his official duties as an animal control officer while at the grocery shop.
In this case, Josephine isn't guilty of violating PC 243. However, she could be sentenced for a simple battery per PC 242.
Touched in an Offensive or Harmful Way
Battery involves an offensive or harmful touching. It could include even the least touching if it was done angrily or rudely. The touching doesn't have to inflict injury or pain of any form.
Additionally, the legal definition of PC 243 could involve an offensive or violent touching of a substance which is connected to or attached to the alleged victim like a bag they are carrying or a piece of cloth they are putting on.
Any form of touching is considered a violation of PC 243 (b) as well as PC 243 (c) if it's done willfully.
The term "willfully" means the accused acted willingly, deliberately, or on purpose. It doesn't mean that the defendant purposed to:
- Gain an advantage
- Injure another person, or
- Break the law
Knew or Should Have Been Aware that the Alleged Victim is a Law Enforcer
You can only be sentenced for violating Penal Code Section 243 (b) and 243 (c) PC if you were aware or should have been aware that you were committing battery against a police officer or a member of the protected class.
When determining if you knew or ought to have known, the judge will put the following factors into consideration:
- Whether the peace officer or protected individual was putting on a uniform
- Whether the victim told you their status
- Whether the alleged victim was operating a well-marked car like an ambulance or police vehicle
How is Assault Differs From Battery
Although the legal terms battery and assault are commonly used together, that doesn't mean they suggest one thing. They are different offenses.
Under PC 240, assault can be defined as conduct that could cause unwanted touching or physical harm to another person. Battery, on the other hand, is the application of violence or force on another person.
Additionally, assault does not necessarily involve physical contact while the battery does. In other words, a battery is a completed assault while an assault can be likened to an attempted battery.
Penalties, Sentencing, and Consequences for Violating Penal Code Section 243 PC
Typically, a violation of PC 243 is prosecuted as a California misdemeanor. The charges attract the following penalties:
- Summary or misdemeanor probation
- A year in jail
- A maximum of two thousand dollars in fine
Penalties for California Felony Battery against a Law Enforcement Officer with an Injury
PC 243 consequences would become a felony battery if you inflicted an injury on the victim. The term "injury" means a physical hurt that needs professional medical attention. It is worth noting that injury doesn't imply that the alleged victim requires to have sought medical care or that the hurt will be considered to have happened if the victim sought medical care unnecessarily.
Battery committed against a protected officer, which leads to an injury, is charged as a California wobbler. That means, you can be charged with either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending primarily on:
- The offense's circumstances, including the degree of the injury caused
- Your criminal history
If prosecuted with a California misdemeanor, battery against a peace officer with injury carries similar penalties as a battery without an injury charge. However, the fine is enhanced to $10,000 if the alleged victim was a law enforcer (contrasted with firefighters or any other member of the protected class).
If charged with a felony, you will face:
- Formal or felony probation
- Ten thousand dollars in fine
- A sixteen month, two, or three-year sentence that is served in jail per California realignment
Is Battery on a Law Enforcement Officer a Strike Offense?
It depends. Violation of PC 243 is not by itself a strike per Three Strikes law. Nevertheless, if the injuries inflicted are serious and deemed as significant bodily injuries, then it’s a strike. Whether the injuries are great bodily injuries or not depends on the circumstances of your case.
Are there Ways to Beat Battery Against a Protected Individual Charges?
The best way to fight Penal Code Section 243 charges is seeking the assistance of a defense lawyer with experience in California battery and assault laws. Moreover, the attorney understands your case as well as the available options and could be in a position to use one of the below legal defenses:
The Defendant Didn't Act Willfully
Although you don’t intend to injure a person, you should have acted willfully to be found guilty of Penal Code Section 243 PC.
Often, this legal defense is useful if you are arrested for battering the arresting officer while you are being taken to police custody. Probably, you were feeling uncomfortable on the patrol vehicle's back or being put in handcuffs, and while you were adjusting the position, you accidentally hit the police. It is very common for the police to claim battery in a situation like this.
You Acted in Defense of Self or Defense of Another Person
Another legal defense an experienced criminal defense attorney can use is self-defense or defense of somebody else. It applies if every statement below is true:
- The defendant reasonably thought that they or somebody else was in pending risk of being touched illegally or suffering a bodily hurt
- The accused reasonably believed that the abrupt application of force against the police or any other member of the protected class was vital to guard against the danger
- The defendant did not use more force than was rationally necessary to protect against the risk
Nevertheless, words alone irrespective of how provocative aren't adequate to excuse a PC 243 crime. A defendant can only claim defense of self or others if they rationally thought a person was at imminent risk of physical hurt or an illegal touching.
The Peace Officer Wasn't Engaged in Their Duties
You can only be found guilty of battery on a peace officer if you committed the battery while the protected individual was doing their official duties.
It is worth noting that a member of the protected class isn't well-thought-out to be doing their duties if they were:
- Detaining or arresting a person illegally
- Violating the search and seizure laws
- Engaging in illegal racial profiling
- Engaging in police cruelty
Therefore, battery committed against the police officer in either of these situations isn't punishable.
Lack of Knowledge
You can't be sentenced for violating Penal Code Section 243 PC if you were not aware or could not have reasonably known that your victim was a law enforcement officer.
The defendant could also use an accident as their valid legal defense if they didn't willfully cause injury or force to a police officer or a protected person.
Perfect examples of accident defense include:
- Causing an automotive accident which involves a police vehicle
- Accidentally shoving or tripping a peace officer in a crowd
If you were wrongly accused of violating PC 243, you require an experienced defense attorney who can find inconsistencies and missing gaps in the prosecutor's evidence to prove you did not commit the offense.
What is Not Considered as Legal Defense
- Voluntary intoxication- A person who commits a battery on a member of the protected class cannot use voluntary intoxication as a legal defense. The defendant knows or should be aware that drugs and alcohol interfere with mental functioning. As a result, PC 243 law holds the defendant lawfully accountable if they violate the law because of the voluntary use. However, if you can establish that they were involuntary drunk, you cannot be found guilty because you did not choose to take the alcohol or drugs.
- Provocation- It isn't a legal defense that you were responding to provocative conduct, which did not put you at risk of physical injury. A word alone, notwithstanding how exasperating or offensive, is not an excuse for battery on a law enforcer.
Discussed below are crimes which are commonly charged alongside or together with Penal Code 243 PC:
Simple Battery (PC 242)
Per Penal Code Section 242 PC, it is illegal to touch any person, including a law enforcement officer or protected individual illegally or willfully.
It is prosecuted as a California misdemeanor. Generally, it carries the penalties below:
- A six-month jail sentence
- Two thousand dollars in fine
If accused of PC 243 and the prosecution has weak evidence like:
- The peace officer was engaged in their duty, or
- You were aware that the victim was a peace officer
Your defense attorney could attempt to get your charge lessened to a simple battery charge. It can be achieved through plea bargain negotiations.
Battery With Severe Injury (PC 243(d))
You will be accused of PC 243(d) if you cause a severe bodily injury on another person through a battery, whether a police officer or a protected individual or not. Please note serious bodily hurt is different from great bodily harm or injury. The former means a severe impairment of a physical condition like concussions or broken bones.
Battery causing a serious injury is considered a California wobbler.
- If filed as a felony, the defendant risks facing 2, 3, or 4 years in California state prison
- If you're accused of committing battery against a law enforcement officer, and your conduct caused severe bodily hurt, the prosecutor could choose to file either battery with serious hurt or battery against a police officer with an injury. Since the felony penalties for a battery with severe injury charge is somewhat more severe, the prosecutor will most likely charge you with PC 243(d).
Sightseeing at an Emergency (Penal Code Section 402a)
Under California PC 402(a), it is illegal to stop or go to an emergency scene and prevent the performance of duties of firefighters, paramedics, police officers, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) among other emergency personnel. It is a California misdemeanor that attracts up to six months in jail.
Your defense attorney should be able to use PC 402(a) in plea bargain negotiations from a battery on a protected officer.
Resisting Arrest (California Penal Code Section 148 PC)
Another effective plea bargain from PC 243 charges is resisting arrest.
Under Penal Code Section 148 PC, resisting arrest is delaying, resisting, or obstructing the police or EMTs while they are engaging in their duties.
It is filed as a California misdemeanor that carries:
- One thousand dollars in fine
- A year in jail
Although the above penalties are less severe compared to those attracted by a California misdemeanor PC 243, a Penal Code Section 148 PC conviction will have a long-lasting negative impact on a defendant's criminal record.
Can a Victim of Penal Code Section 243 PC Bring a Civil Lawsuit Against You?
Battery victims are entitled to take legal action against the accused for compensation for lost wages and medical costs. You don't need to be convicted in trial or charged with the offense.
It is because a civil trial doesn't need proof beyond any reasonable doubt. The alleged victim only requires to establish battery by a preponderance of the evidence. It means you probably battered the alleged victim. It's a lower standard of proof compared to what is needed to find a person guilty of an offense.
To establish liability, the peace officer should present evidence by a preponderance of the evidence that:
- You touched them with an intent to offend or hurt them
- The peace officer didn't give you permission to the touching
- The peace officer was injured or upset by your conduct
- A reasonable individual could have been upset by your conduct
Battery on a Protected Individual Charge Expungement
Expungement means the process of sealing your conviction and arrest records. Once a conviction or arrest has been expunged, you do not need to disclose it to potential landlords and employers.
Contrary to popular belief, expungement doesn't equate to records destruction. Instead, the records are sealed and can't be reopened without a court order. That means this information can only be revealed under extraordinary circumstances.
To qualify for expungement, you:
- Must have completed your probation or obtained an early probation termination
- Not currently charged with a crime, on probation for an offense, or serving a sentence
To complete probation means that you:
- Adhered to all your probation terms and conditions
- Attended all court hearings
- Did not violate the law while on probation
Please note a defendant sent to state prison is not eligible for expungement per Penal Code 1203.4. However, you could be exempted if you would serve your sentence in jail if you committed the offense after realignment provided two years have passed since you completed your sentence.
How to Obtain Expungement
For you to be considered for expungement, you should file a petition with the court. You can bring the petition either in person, through your lawyer, or by a probation officer authorized in writing.
Then the judge will either:
- Allow you to withdraw your no contest or guilty plea and enter an innocent plea
- Dismiss the guilty verdict if you have been found guilty after pleading not guilty
In both instances, the judge will set aside the allegations against you. Then, you will be released from penalties and limitations originating from the battery on a peace officer.
Before the judge grants expungement, several steps should be followed. As a result, it is recommended to seek the help of a qualified lawyer. These steps include:
- Reviewing your case to check if you are eligible
- Conducting legal research on both the relevant and current law
- Filing the necessary paperwork timely
- Showing up in court for the expungement hearing
Filing your paperwork in time is essential. For instance, you should present the prosecution with a notice at least fifteen days before your hearing. It gives them a chance to analyze your case and oppose it if desired.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it Worth Retaining a Criminal Defense Attorney?
As far as criminal justice is concerned, your defense lawyer should be your confidant, protector, and guide. The attorney will research the case's circumstances, investigate the case, and negotiate deals with the prosecutor. These deals include a reduced sentence, lesser charges, and reduced bail.
Moreover, the attorney will give you a reality check of the possible outcome and help you handle humiliation, fear, and frustration that comes with being charged with battery on a protected person.
What Evidence Does Your Attorney Require to Defend You?
To effectively defend you, your criminal defense attorney will collect the following:
- Victim's testimony- An alleged victim's statement can establish a defendant's innocence by proving facts of the offense
- Physical evidence- This type of evidence is gathered proof that can help recreate the crime scene. It could be DNA evidence, marks of the belongings of the protected individual, among other things that can show the sequence of events
- Police Report- A police report is a report that explains how the crime was committed. It is written at the scene of the crime. The most interesting aspect of a police report is the fact that it isn't subject to changing storylines.
Find Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me
California Penal Code sections 243 (b) and 243 (c) PC is a severe offense in Los Angeles. The offense carries more severe penalties compared to battery committed on a civilian. As a result, if you are charged with this offense, it is in your best interest to engage a defense attorney immediately. At The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm, we can not only fight for your rights and freedom but also establish a legal defense on your behalf. If you want to discuss the case with a qualified attorney, please call us at 310-935-1675. We will be glad to answer your questions and review the case.