Assault is generally defined as an attempt to commit battery. Assault on a police officer is assault committed on a peace officer responsible for perserving public order, promoting public safety, and preventing and detecting crime.
Are There Increased Punishments for Assault on a Police Officer?
In general, most states will enhance the fine and jail time punishment for an assault on a police officer. Under some state laws, assault on a police officer will be elevated to aggravated assault. Aggravated assault also comes with a much stiffer penalty than simple assault, especially since it may be classified as a felony instead of a misdemeanor.
State laws will usually differ, but most states require that in order to be considered an assault on a police officer, the officer needs to be in the discharge of his duties and the assaulting person must reasonably be aware that s/he is a police officer.
Are There Defenses to Assault on a Police Officer?
Assault is illegal unless the force is justified. Most jurisdictions have affirmative defenses justifying the use of force. These defenses, however, are generally not available when applied to assaulting a police officer and/or interfering with an arrest. Nonetheless, actions amounting to assault against a police officer may be justified if used in self-defense.
When Is Self-Defense Justified?
Generally, where the arrest is lawful, the person being arrested has no right to resist. If, however, the police officer uses excessive force in the execution of a lawful arrest, then there may be conditions upon which an assault is justified by self-defense. In most states, in order for self-defense to be available the person being arrested must:
- be the one attacked by a police officer,
- have reasonable ground to believe, and in good faith does believe, that his life is in danger, or that s/he will suffer great bodily injury, and
- must only meet the attack with such reasonable force as necessary to save his own life and protect himself from great bodily injury
What If the Arrest Is Unlawful?
Even if the arrest is unwarranted or unlawful, you need to be careful because resisting arrest with force may result in a charge of resisting arrest. In most cases, where there is no fear of death or serious bodily injury, complying with the arresting officers is a safer bet. By complying with the arrest, you can plead your case before a neutral court.
Should I Contact a Criminal Attorney?
Assaulting a police officer is a very serious charge and the issues determining whether or not force was necessary are delicate. Seeking the services of a criminal attorney will assist in making sure that the police did not act improperly in making your arrest and that your force was or was not justified.