Police officers and other first responders like firefighters and paramedics have tough but very important jobs. So it’s no wonder that California law offers these officials and certain other individuals special protections when they are acting in the line of duty.
California Penal Code 243(b) and 243(c), battery against a police officer, provides enhanced penalties for offenders convicted of committing battery against someone the perpetrator knows (or should have known) was a police officer or other protected person who is engaged in the performance of their official duties.
As defined by California Penal Code 243(b), battery against a peace officer (police officer) occurs when an individual knowingly and willfully commits battery against an individual the perpetrator knows (or should have reasonably known) is a police officer or other protected person who is engaged in the performance of their official duties.
Under this law, other protected persons include:
Paramedics or emergency medical technicians
Medical professionals providing emergency services
Probation/parole officers or department employees
Assault vs. battery, and simple battery vs. aggravated battery
It is important to understand the difference between assault and battery, as well as the distinction between simple and aggravated battery.
Even though the terms assault and battery are often used together, these are two separate offenses. Assault is an attempt to harm or injure another, while battery involves the actual use of unlawful force on another person. Quite simply, assault is a “swing and a miss” or an attempted battery. Assault is commonly a lesser included charge against a defendant who is tried on a charge of battery.
As for simple vs. aggravated battery, simple battery results in either no or slight injury and is a misdemeanor, while aggravated battery involves more serious injury, or an injury suffered by a protected person as described above.
Elements of the crime of battery on a police officer
In order for a successful conviction for violation of 243(b) or 243(c), the following elements must be proven:
The victim was a police officer or protected person who was involved in the performance of their duties.
The defendant unlawfully and willingly touched the victim in a violent or forceful manner.
The defendant knew or should have reasonably known the victim was a police officer or protected person.
The victim was injured – this element applies only to 243(c).
There are several other offenses a defendant could be charged with in conjunction with 243(b) and 243(c) PC, many of which can result in increased penalties. These offenses include:
Criminal penalties for battery on a police officer
While 243(b) PC is a misdemeanor, 243(c) PC is a “wobbler” which may be filed as either a misdemeanor or felony depending upon the circumstances, facts of the case, and the defendant’s prior criminal history.
Even if the battery resulted in little or no injury and is charged as a misdemeanor, due to the special protections afforded to the victim, this crime carries relatively stiff penalties:
One year in county jail, or 16 months to three years in county jail as per California’s realignment law.
A fine of up to $2,000.
For a battery on a police officer that results in an injury requiring medical treatment, the defendant may be charged and convicted of a felony under 243(c) PC with the following consequences:
16 months to three years in state prison, or from two to four years in prison if the victim sustains serious injury.
A fine of up to $10,000.
Further, felony aggravated battery against a police officer is considered a strike under California’s “Three Strikes” law.
Battery against a police officer is an offense that carries serious penalties. Only a qualified attorney can provide legal advice. However, there are several common defenses to battery on a police officer which may be utilized, including:
Self-defense or defense of others by an individual who was acting under a reasonable belief that they or another person would be harmed by the police officer.
A police officer or protected person was not performing their duties lawfully — such as making an illegal arrest or using excessive force or brutality — when the alleged battery occurred.
The battery was the result of an unintentional act or accident.