Penal Code 243b and 243c PC - Battery on a Police Officer
Committing simple battery against anyone is a crime under California Penal Code 242 PC. However, it is a separate, more serious offense when battery is committed against a police officer while performing their duties.
This crime is defined under California Penal Code 243b and 243c PC. A conviction can result in jail time of up to one year in county jail, and if the victim is injured, up to three years in state prison.
Simply put, if a battery is committed on any peace officer, the perpetrator will usually be charged under these statutes rather than the standard PC 242 battery. This is considered a more serious violent crime than a common misdemeanor battery charge.
Prosecutors commonly aggressively pursue a conviction that carries severe penalties. Still, they must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you willfully offensively made physical contact while they were performing their duties.
Perhaps we can argue that the alleged “battery” was an accident or that they were not lawfully engaging in their duty at the time. Let's review this state law further below.
What Does the Law Say?
Battery is defined as the offensive touching of someone without consent. In addition, under Penal Code 243b and 243c, it's illegal to willfully use force or violence against a peace officer, police officer, or another protected person.
A “battery” can include hitting, kicking, shoving, or even slightly touching an officer in a harmful or offensive manner. Notably, they do not have to suffer an injury to be considered a crime.
Simply put, the slightest touch can be deemed a battery if done rudely, angrily, or offensively. Further, the unlawful touching of the peace officer can be done indirectly, such as by causing an object to touch the officer.
Notably, this statute does not only protect police officers but includes a comprehensive list of other protected officials, including the following:
- Emergency medical technicians,
- Doctors and nurses providing emergency treatment,
- Custodial officers and assistants,
- Code enforcement officers,
- Private security guards
- Search and rescue members,
- Traffic officer,
- Process servers,
- Animal control officers,
- Probation department personnel.
The statute says, “engaged in the performance of their duties, whether on or off duty.” This means this law only applies if the officer you allegedly assaulted was engaging in the performance of their duties at the time of the incident.
Suppose you were involved in an incident with an off-duty police officer who was not engaged in their regular duties when you allegedly hit them. In that case, you can't be charged under this law but rather possibly another statute. Some related crimes include the following:
- Penal Code 148 PC - resisting arrest,
- Penal Code 69 PC - resisting an executive officer,
- Penal Code 217.1(a) PC - assault on public official;
- Penal Code 241(c) PC - assault on a police officer;
- Penal Code 242 PC - battery.
What Are the Penalties?
Simple battery against anyone is a misdemeanor that carries up to $2000 in fines and up to 6 months in county jail. However, the maximum jail time is increased when the battery is committed against a peace officer.
If convicted for violating Penal Code 243b and 243c, your sentence depends on whether the officer was injured. If there are no injuries, a misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in county jail and a fine not exceeding $2000.
If the officer or protected person suffered an injury requiring medical attention because of the battery, it is a "wobbler" offense that can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. If convicted of a felony, the jail time can be increased to three years, and the fine increases to $10,000.
What Are the Best Defenses?
If you were charged with battery against a peace officer, a California criminal defense attorney can use several strategies to obtain the best possible outcome, as discussed below.
Perhaps we can argue that you acted in self-defense. If we show that your actions were in defense of police abuse or brutality, the charges may be dismissed or acquitted.
Perhaps we can argue that you didn't touch the officer. The prosecution must prove that you touched the officer in a harmful or offensive manner.
Perhaps we can argue that the contact was accidental. To convict you, prosecutors must show that your actions against the officer were intentional. Maybe we can prove that any contact between you and the officer was accidental.
Perhaps we can argue that the officer was not acting officially. However, battery against police only applies when officer performs their duties.
Perhaps there is evidence that you were unaware that they were a police officer. Maybe they were undercover and in plain clothes. Then, you can't be convicted under Penal Code 243(b) or 243(c). Perhaps the alleged battery occurred in a chaotic outdoor situation where you had no reasonable way of knowing.
Perhaps the police officers exaggerated the circumstances or even lie in their reports. Maybe we can negotiate with prosecutors for reduced charges or convince them not to file formal charges in the first place (DA reject).
You can contact our law firm for a free case consultation by phone or use the contact form. Cron, Israels & Stark is located in Los Angeles, California.