On Wednesday, August 11, 2010, police officers were searching for suspects involved in an officer shooting in South Los Angeles. Officers were responding to a call when someone fired at them. While none of the officers was seriously injured, if criminal charges are filed, the criminal complaint will almost certainly include charges of Battery On A Police Officer.
What is the difference between simple battery (on a civilian) and battery on a police officer? The biggest difference is the severity of potential punishment.
Due to the special role of law enforcement as civilian protectors, the law often provides for stiffer punishments when a peace officer is a victim of crime. If identical batteries are committed against a civilian and a police officer, the defendant who committed the battery against the officer is likely to receive a harsher criminal punishment.
Under California law, a simple battery – not against a police officer – occurs when a person suffers either no injury or a slight injury. The penalty for a simple misdemeanor battery is up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2000. By contrast, if there is an allegation of battery on a police officer (or another specially protected class of persons such as firefighters or emergency medical personnel), an individual can face up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $2000 OR a state prison term for of months, 2 or 3 years.
In order to convict a person of a battery against a police officer, the prosecution must prove that (1) the individual committed the battery, (2) it was against a police officer, (3) the officer was engaged in the performance of his/her duties, (4) the individual knew or should have known that the officer was a police officer, and (5) the officer sustained an injury.
In the shooting discussed above, if an officer sustained any type of injury, this could be sufficient for the prosecution to prove battery against a police officer, assuming the other elements of the crime are met. In cases involving altercations between civilians and police officers, another common charge is what is informally referred to as “resisting arrest.”
Such was the case for several men arrested for battling with police during the violence that erupted after the Los Angeles Lakers won the 2010 NBA Championship. On June 22, 2010, three of the men pled no contest or guilty to charges of resisting arrest, and one also pled guilty to battery on a police officer – that individual received a 90 day jail sentence and 36 months of probation.