Assaulting a public official?
In the California Penal Code, assault can have multiple classifications depending on the context of the crime. This means that certain forms of assault (because of the method of the crime or the victim) can have very serious penalties. California Penal Code 217.1 deals with assaulting a public official. Important to note is that assault is the attempt to commit violent injury, and can still apply even if the defendant did not manage to injure the victim. Public officials include Presidents, Vice Presidents, Governors, judges, elected officials, prosecutors and public defenders, and any city council members or associated parties.
In order to classify a case of assault as one on a public official, the prosecution must prove three elements. First, the defendant in question must have assaulted an individual. Second, the individual assaulted by the defendant must have been a public official or their immediate family. Third, the public official was not randomly chosen, instead, they were specifically targeted and assaulted for either retaliation or prevention of performance of their duties. However, if the assault did not relate to the public official’s duties, then it is classified as another form of assault that applies.
What are the punishments?
As explained previously, this form of assault can carry very serious penalties. According to the Penal Code, this crime is a wobbler. Therefore, if convicted of a misdemeanor assault, the defendant can face up to a year in a county jail in California, must pay a fine of up to $1,000, and summary probation. However, if the prosecutor chooses to charge the perpetrator with a felony assault, the defendant must then have formal probation, spend up to three years in a county jail in California and the increased payment of a fine of $10,000.
How to defend yourself against a wrongful assault against a public officer charge?
Given the severity of the crime, if you have been wrongfully accused of assaulting a public official, you must immediately seek the advice of an experienced criminal attorney. There are several possible defenses that can be used to dismiss, or reduce, the assault charges.
One defense can be to prove that the defendant did not assault the public official in order to impede their required duties. While the crime of assault did occur, it was not done so because of the victim’s job or public duties. This defense can be used to reduce the assault against a public officer charge to one of simple assault.