Actual Case #1
In People v. Hewitt - Case No. SCN 315597, Mr Hewitt was charged with the crime of Resisting the Arrest of a police officer while causing the cop Great Bodily Injury (broken nose and two front teeth kicked out of her face). The police officer "victim" wrote in her report and stated on the witness stand under oath that when she was detaining my clients girlfriend for littering at the Oceanside Harbor campground, that my client exited the rear of his motor home and challenged the cop to a fight by maintaining a fighting stance. The cop also stated that my client, Mr. Hewitt, was drunk i.e., intoxicated in public, which caused her to feel the need to detain Mr. Hewitt. So she called for back up when at least 5 other Oceanside Police officers showed up and tackled Mr. Hewitt to the ground and tazed him at least 10 times as he was on the ground. The "victim" cop stated that she was trying to maintain control of Mr. Hewitt's legs when he intentionally kicked her in the face causing a broken nose and the loss of her two front teeth.
What really happened is that this cop has a history of being heavy handed with campers at the Oceanside Harbor campground as testified to by an employee of the campground who knew of her reputation for being a bully. The cop unlawfully detained Mr. Hewitt and his girlfriend for no apparent legal reason but to further her bullying of campers who were peacefully camping minding their own business. Mr. Voll, was able to show to the jury that Mr. Hewitt was tackled by the back up officers and repeatedly tazed for no legal reason. Even though the initial complaining officer did get kicked in the face and suffered a broken nose and the loss of her two front teeth, 3 jurors maintained their position that Mr. Hewitt was not guilty of this charge and the case was declared a mistrial by the Trial Judge. Mr. Hewitt is still a free man pending the re-trial or disposition of this matter. UPDATE: On March 14, 2016, the case against Mr. Hewitt was disposed of for a Misdemeanor California Penal Code section 148(a) - Resisting Arrest. No restitution was ordered, Mr. Hewitt was given 2 days time served and only had to pay a $655.00 fine and was ordered to be on Informal Probation for 3 years.
If you have been charged with battery against a police officer, it is important to understand how the law defines this offense. It is also crucial to be aware of the gravity of the potential punishments and of the likely strategies of both prosecutors and defense attorneys. This, along with finding a skilled defense attorney, will maximize your chances in court.
Distinguishing Battery From Assault
Despite the frequent conflation of these two crimes in the public mind, assault is distinct from battery in the world of law. Any attempt to injure another person is labeled an instance of "assault," but "battery" requires that the accused physically contacted and/or injured another person. No matter how small that injury or contact was, it can still count as battery.
California's penal code defines battery as an unlawful, willful use of force and/or violence on someone else's person. This includes not only direct contact but also using an object or another person as the means of injuring the victim.
Distinguishing Simple Battery From Aggravated Battery
"Simple battery" indicates that the physical contact resulted in a very slight injury or in no injury at all. "Aggravated battery" is used to designate instances wherein a more serious injury was inflicted. The former is a misdemeanor, but the latter is a felony. Be aware, however, that simple battery against police officers and certain other "protected persons" can bring stricter punishments than simple battery against other persons.
Defining Battery on a Peace Officer
The California Penal Code defines battery on a peace officer as any instance of battery directed against a police officer while on duty, provided that the accused was aware, or ought to have been aware, that the plaintiff was a police officer.
Who Can Be Charged With Battery on a Peace Officer?
The charge of battery on a peace officer is only to be made against those who are thought to have willfully committed the act. They must also have had reason to believe it was a police officer that they committed battery against. Further, the officer must have been carrying out his or her duties as an enforcer of the law. If such things can be shown, however, it does not matter how slightly the officer was touched nor if the contact was direct or indirect.
What Sentences and Punishments Could Result From a Conviction?
If convicted of battery on a peace officer, one will either receive a misdemeanor or a felony on their record, depending on the existence or severity of any injuries. Simple battery will be a misdemeanor, but aggravated battery will result in a felony.
Simple battery on a peace officer carries the following punishments:
- A fine that shall not exceed $2,000
- Generally no more than a year in the county jail, though some exceptional cases can see a sentence of up to three years
- In certain cases, both the fine and the jail time can apply
Aggravated battery on a peace officer results in these punishments:
- A fine no more than $10,000
- Generally no more than 16 months in a state prison, though very serious injuries can lead to terms of up to four years
- In some cases, both the fine and prison time
What Burden of Proof Lies On the Prosecutor?
The prosecutor must prove the following points:
- The victim was indeed a police officer who was carrying out his or her lawfully assigned duties
- The accused intentionally broke the law and used force/violence against the victim
- The accused knew or should have known, at the time of the crime, that he or she was committing battery against a police officer
- To prove aggravated batter, the prosecutor must further prove that the officer received substantial injury as a result of the battery
What Strategies Might the Defense Attorney Use?
The two main defenses typically used are:
- Self defense or defense of other people: There was reason for the defendant to believe that he or another person were in physical danger. The force used to prevent it must have been reasonably proportional to the perceived threat.
- The peace officer was not lawfully carrying out his or her duties: The defendant was being unlawfully arrested or detained. If, in this scenario, the officer used excessive force on the defendant, his actions could then be considered self defense.
Contacting a Defense Attorney
If you are facing charges of battery on a peace officer in Los Angeles, CA, or surrounding areas, do not hesitate to contact the Law Offices of Jeff Voll for a free consultation. You can contact us by calling 323-467-6400. You will receive fast, effective, and professional help. We are here when you need us to guide you in understanding the law and to fight for you in court for the best outcome possible.