Assault on a public official is not just like any other assault and battery criminal offense. This is because it attracts harsher penalties upon conviction and the Pasadena Law Enforcement Department takes it seriously.
If you or your loved one are facing charges of assault on a public official, we invite you to contact us at the Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm in Pasadena as soon as possible. We are a team of dedicated and highly experienced lawyers in criminal defense. We will do all it takes to help you fight your charges.
In this article, we’ll discuss the meaning of assault on a public official as set out under the California Penal Code, its penalties, legal defenses, and other related offenses. We will also highlight what the prosecutor must prove in an assault on a public official criminal case for you to be convicted. Let us get started.
The Meaning of Assault on a Public Official
In California, the primary law on assault on a public official is Penal Code 217.1. According to Penal Code 217.1, it is unlawful to commit an act of assault on a public official. This offense is a form of aggravated assault.
Often, public officials are obstructed when performing their duties or face retaliation for their actions. If you assault a public officer to obstruct him/her from performing his/her duties or retaliate against his/her actions, you will face charges under PC 217.1.
The criminal offense of assault on a public official is categorized as a wobbler. This means that the Pasadena Prosecution Department can charge it as either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the facts and circumstances of your case.
What the Prosecutor Must Prove
In California criminal cases, the burden of proof is on the prosecution, and the standard of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt. Typically, prosecutors in California find it difficult to reach this high standard. This is because they must prove each element of the offense to this high standard. If they don't, you will be acquitted.
Particularly, to be convicted of assault on a public official, the prosecutor must prove each of the following elements:
- You committed an act of assault.
- The act of assault was committed against a public official or a member of his/her immediate family.
- You committed the act of assault with an intention to retaliate against the actions of the public official or obstruct him/her from performing his/her duties.
Below, we discuss each of these elements briefly:
An Act of Assault
The prosecutor must prove that you committed an act of assault. They must illustrate that you inflicted a severe bodily injury on another person.
Note that it is not a requirement for the prosecutor to prove that the victim sustained an injury. As long as you attempted to commit the assault, you will be convicted under Penal Code 217.1.
Against a Public Official or a Member of His/Her Immediate Family
The prosecutor must show that you committed an act of assault against a public official or his/her immediate family member. If you assaulted none of these individuals, you would be acquitted.
Here, the term ‘public official’ refers to the following people:
- The President or the Vice President of the United States.
- A former or current public defender.
- A Governor of any state in the United States.
- Any jury or judge.
- A former or current prosecutor.
- Any subordinate court officer.
- A city council member, mayor, county supervisor, law enforcement officer, sheriff, municipal chief of police, or peace officer.
- The director or secretary of any executive agency.
- A state or federal elected official.
Moreover, the term ‘immediate family member’ refers to:
Intention to Retaliate or Obstruct
The prosecutor must demonstrate that you committed the act of assault with an intention to retaliate against the actions of a public official or obstruct him/her from performing his/her duties. If you committed the act of assault while having any other intention or because of any other reason, you will be acquitted.
Typically, prosecutors in Pasadena prove this element by alluding to the circumstances surrounding the defendant when he/she committed the offense. For instance, it will be much easier for the prosecution to prove this element if you were engaging in an unlawful activity when you assaulted a police officer.
The Penalties for Assault on a Public Official
As earlier stated, the criminal offense of assault on a public official can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. This will depend on the unique facts pertinent to your case.
The penalty for misdemeanor assault on a public official is a maximum jail term of one year or a fine of up to $1,000. The punishment for felony assault on a public official is a maximum fine of $10,000 or a maximum jail term of three years.
Sometimes, the judge may sentence you on a probation term, depending on his/her discretion. During the probation period, you will be expected to observe certain conditions. If you don't observe them, the judge will impose additional punishments on you.
Assault on a Public Official with a Deadly Weapon
If you assault a public official with a deadly weapon, you may not be charged under PC 217.1. Instead, the Pasadena Department of Prosecution may charge you under California Penal Code 245(a)1.
There must be evidence that you used a deadly weapon. Here, a 'deadly weapon' means a gun or any other object that can inflict grievous bodily harm on another person. We will discuss more later in this article.
Does an Assault on a Public Official Conviction Carry Immigration Consequences?
In California, assault on a public official is categorized as a criminal offense involving moral turpitude. Simply put, a criminal offense involving moral turpitude is a crime that involves dishonest, vile, base, or depraved conduct.
Because assault on a public official is categorized as a criminal offense involving moral turpitude, its conviction carries negative immigration consequences. Non-citizens who have been convicted of assault on a public official can be deported or become marked as ‘inadmissible.’
If you are facing charges of assault on a public official and you are a non-citizen, you will need to hire an attorney who is well-versed in both criminal and immigration law. Our team of defense attorneys has excellent expertise in immigration law. We can assist you in avoiding the negative immigration consequences that come along with an assault on a public official conviction.
Negative Consequences of an Assault on a Public Official Conviction on Professional Licenses
An assault on a public official conviction carries negative consequences on professional licenses. In the worst-case scenario, you may lose your professional license.
For example, a doctor who has been convicted of assault on a public official may lose his/her license to practice medicine. Moreover, California state employees who have been convicted of this offense may be suspended from or lose their employment.
This is why you must have a robust defense strategy if you have been charged with the criminal offense of assault on a public official. An assault on a public official conviction carries long-lasting consequences that can make you lose your source of livelihood.
Is an Assault on a Public Official Conviction a Strike under California's Three Strikes Law?
According to California's Three Strikes Law, a defendant who has up to three prior convictions of serious or violent felonies may be sentenced to an imprisonment term of 25 years to life. This law is codified in California Penal Code 667.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, an assault on a public official conviction may qualify as a strike pursuant to California's Three Strikes Law. This is especially true if the victim suffered a grievous bodily injury or you used a firearm to commit the assault.
Note that your assault on a public official conviction can only qualify as a strike if you had been charged with it as a felony. As a general rule, a misdemeanor conviction cannot qualify as a strike.
Can Assault Victims File a Civil Lawsuit for Compensation?
Yes, assault victims can file a civil lawsuit for compensation. This means that if you assault a public official, he/she can institute a civil claim in a California court for compensation.
In such a lawsuit, the victim would be asking the court to grant him/her damages against you for the financial expenses he/she incurred as a result of the assault. These financial expenses may include lost wages and medical bills.
You do not have to be convicted for the PEN 217.1 charges for the victim's civil lawsuit to succeed. You can win the criminal case but still be found liable for damages in the civil suit.
This is because the standard of proof in California civil cases is much lower than that required in criminal cases. Remember, the standard of proof in California criminal cases is beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil cases, the standard of proof needed is on a balance of probabilities. As long as the jury believes that it is 'more likely than not' you assaulted the victim, you will be held liable for damages.
It is noteworthy to state that California's Statute of Limitations runs for one year in misdemeanor charges and three years in felony charges. If the victim would not have brought his/her lawsuit by then, he/she would be forever barred from doing so.
Legal Defenses to Assault on a Public Official
Your lawyer can use various defense strategies to help you fight assault charges. The following are the most common legal defenses to assault on a public official:
- Lack of intent.
- The assault was not committed.
- No ability to commit the assault.
- False accusations.
Here is a brief explanation of each of them:
Lack of Intent
Remember, it must be true that you had a willful and malicious intent to retaliate against the actions of a public official or obstruct him/her from performing his/her duties. If you had no such intention, you would be acquitted.
This means that one of the best defense strategies you can use is to show that you had no willful and malicious intent. For instance, you can tell the court that you assaulted the public official accidentally.
You can tell the court that you assaulted the public official simply out of self-defense. Maybe you were protecting yourself, a loved one, or your property.
To use this defense, you must adduce evidence showing that:
- You honestly believed that you or another person was in imminent danger.
- The force you inflicted on the public official was what was required to stop the danger.
- The amount of force used was reasonable under the circumstances.
Your defense attorney can help you do this.
The Assault was not Committed
Remember, too, that one of the elements that the prosecutor must prove for you to be convicted is that you committed an act of assault. If you can show that there was no assault, you will be acquitted.
As earlier stated, 'assault' has a precise legal definition. If what you did does not fall within the scope of this definition, the court will dismiss your charges.
No Ability to Commit the Assault
You could use this defense to fight your charges if you had a health condition at the time when the alleged offense was committed. For instance, you may tell the court that you were even too weak to have committed the act of assault.
In such a case, you'd have to adduce expert evidence, for instance, a doctor testifying about your health condition during the trial. Your attorney can help you do this.
Moreover, depending on the circumstances of the alleged offense, you can opt to use this defense. For example, you can illustrate to the court that the physical distance between you and the victim was too wide for you to have assaulted him/her.
The public official might have accused you falsely. This is especially if you are being charged with an attempt to commit assault on a public official. Remember, you can still face prosecutions under PEN 217.1 even if you did not commit the act of assault, as long as the prosecutor proves beyond a reasonable doubt that you attempted to do so.
A public official can falsely accuse you of assault simply because of jealousy, anger, or desire for revenge. As experienced defense attorneys, we’ve encountered such situations before, and we know how to gather evidence and cross-examine witnesses to ensure the true story comes out.
Remember, the prosecutor must prove that you had a willful intention to commit the act of assault. This means that if you accidentally assaulted a public official, you cannot be convicted under PC 217.1.
To use this defense, you must provide evidence showing that you committed the act of assault accidentally. It would be best to illustrate to the court that the act of assault was unforeseeable, and it occurred unexpectedly. You cannot use this defense if you committed a foreseeable act of assault and you try to pass it off as an 'accident.'
Is it Possible to Expunge an Assault of a Public Official Conviction?
Yes, it is possible to expunge an assault of a public official conviction. Once you've been convicted of assault on a public official, you will obtain a criminal record. This record will hinder you from accessing certain opportunities, such as scholarships, decent housing, university admissions, and jobs. You'd have to expunge your record to access these opportunities.
Note that it might not be possible for you to expunge your record if you served an imprisonment term. However, you can seek other alternative remedies, such as applying for the Governor's Pardon or a Certificate of Rehabilitation.
When you expunge your assault on a public official conviction, you'd be able to freely state that you've never been convicted of a criminal offense before without fear of perjury. Moreover, no individual or organization will discriminate against you based on your criminal record.
Assault on a Public Official and Related Offenses
Various crimes are related to the offense of assault on a public official. Some of them include the following:
- Assault with a deadly weapon.
- Assault on a police officer.
- Resisting an executive officer.
- Resisting arrest.
- Simple assault.
Here is a brief explanation of each of them:
California's primary law on battery is Penal Code 242. According to PC 242, it is unlawful to use violence or force upon another person.
This offense is categorized as a misdemeanor. Its penalty is a county jail term of up to six months or a fine of up to $1,000.
Assault with a Deadly Weapon
As earlier stated, the primary law on assault with a deadly weapon in California is Penal Code 245. According to PC 245, it is unlawful to attack another person using a deadly weapon or any other object likely to cause severe bodily harm. This criminal offense is more commonly referred to as 'ADW.'
It is categorized as a wobbler, and it can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. Misdemeanor charges attract a jail term of up to one year or a fine of up to $1,000 upon conviction. The penalty for felony assault with a deadly weapon is an imprisonment term of up to four years or a fine of up to $10,000.
Assault on a Police Officer
California’s primary law on assault of a police officer is Penal Code 245a1. If you assault a police officer, you can be charged both under California Penal Code 217.1 or Penal Code 245a1. This is because a police officer falls under the definition of a public official, as envisaged in PC 217.1.
The criminal offense of assault on a police officer is a misdemeanor. Its penalty is a maximum jail term of one year or a fine of up to $2,000.
Resisting an Executive Officer
According to Penal Code 69, it is unlawful to resist an executive officer using violence or threats. This offense is a wobbler, and it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
The punishment for misdemeanor resisting an executive officer is a county jail term of up to one year. The penalty for felony resisting an executive officer is a county jail term of up to three years.
According to California Penal Code 148, it is unlawful to resist or delay arrest or obstruct an emergency medical technician from performing his/her duties. For instance, you may be charged under PC 148 if you attempt to fight a police officer while being arrested or taunt an EMT while he/she is attending to a patient.
The criminal offense of resisting arrest is a misdemeanor. Its penalty is a maximum jail term of one year or a fine of up to $1,000.
Remember, assault on a public official is one of the forms of aggravated assault. If you assaulted another person and there aren’t any aggravating factors in your case, the Pasadena Prosecution Department will charge you with simple assault.
Simple assault is categorized as a misdemeanor, while aggravated assault can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. The punishment for simple assault is a county jail term of up to six months or a fine of up to $1,000.
Find a Pasadena Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me
We at the Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm understand the predicament you or your loved one may be facing. This is why we are here to help you.
We will help you build a robust defense strategy so that you can possibly win your case or significantly reduce the possible penalties. Contact us at 626-628-0564 if you are facing charges of assault on a public official in Pasadena.