Battery on a Police Officer
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What Is the Basic Definition of a Battery?
The definition of a battery is when a person intentionally makes physical contact with another person that results in bodily injury or is considered to be offensive conduct.
Battery is different from an assault in that an assault is merely an attempt to cause harm. An example of a battery is if a person punches another person intending to inflict bodily harm. Indirect contact such as throwing an item at a person is also a battery. Note that in order to be found guilty of a battery, the person must have intended to make the physical contact with victim; accidental contact does not constitute a battery. The intent can transfer to different victims as well as different types of injuries.
Is a Battery Different If It Is Committed against a Police Officer?
Yes. If a battery is committed against a police officer, the battery is considered to be an “aggravated battery”. Other types of aggravated batteries include batteries that result in great bodily harm, batteries involving the use of a weapon, or batteries against a child or a woman. All other batteries are known as “simple” batteries. An aggravated battery carries with it different sentencing consequences than a simple battery.
Aggravated batteries are considered to be more serious offenses than simple batteries and will result in felony rather than misdemeanor charges. Also, aggravated batteries will result in a fine and a prison sentence which may be greater than one year. Simple batteries may also result in a fine, but the defendant may not be put in jail for more than one year. Batteries against a police officer may occur more often than one would expect.
Attempts to resist arrest (even an unlawful arrest) might constitute an aggravated battery if the person intends to harm the officer during their resistance. Also remember that any offensive contact against a police officer might be considered an aggravated battery, even if it is a non-violent action.
Are There Any Defenses to a Battery of a Police Officer?
Very rarely is there a valid legal excuse for a person who has committed a battery against a police officer, especially if there is a valid arrest involved. This is because the law has a great interest in protecting officers who are serving in the line of duty. The most common defense available to a person who has committed a battery against a police officer is self-defense. Self-defense may be justified only when the defendant:
- was attacked first by the police officer
- believes in good faith, according to a “reasonable person” standard, that their life is threatened or will suffer great bodily harm
- responds only with an amount of force that is reasonably necessary to save their life or be protected from great bodily harm
So, for example if a person who is attacked by an unarmed police officer responds with deadly force using a weapon, a self-defense claim will likely not be available to them.
Should I Contact a Lawyer?
The crime of battery on a police officer is one of the most serious offenses, and the law does not take such charges lightly. Even if you feel the arrest or actions by the officer were unlawful, it is always best to comply with police requests. If you believe that you have a self-defense claim, a criminal defense attorney can help you in determining whether your response was reasonable. They can assist you in preparing your case as well as provide you with advice as to your legal options.
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Last Modified: 12-22-2014 03:00 PM PST
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