Assaulting a Public Official


The criminal law often times make special provisions for the protection of some category of individuals. In some instances, the group specially protected represents the most vulnerable in society, such as children or the elderly. However, in other instances, individuals are protected because of the job that they perform. While assault is a crime when committed against any member of the public, the California Penal Code goes a little bit further to create a separate offense prohibiting an assault on a public official.

Public officials are mandated to carry out the work of the government and provides a service for the general public. Accordingly, an assault on a public official is often viewed as an assault on the government and the public in general, and will carry serious consequences. If you have been charged with assaulting a public official, you will need a San Diego crimes against the police attorney.

What is Considered an Assault of a Public Official?

California Penal Code 217.1(a) makes it a crime to effect a simple assault against a public official. The act is only covered under this law if the assault is in retaliation or done to prevent the public official from carrying out his or her duties.

So what then is an assault? The word assault is often times used very loosely in the day to day conversation, but it has a specific legal definition. An assault is an attempt to carry out violent injury to a person. It is not to be confused with a battery, which involves actual use of force. The criminal elements of an assault include the following:

  • An act that would likely result in use of force;
  • A willful intent in carrying out that act;
  • The knowledge that a reasonable person would believe that the act would result in use of force; and
  • The ability to carry out the actual use of force at the time of the act.

The offense of assaulting a public official requires an understanding of who is a public official. This category of individuals includes judges, prosecutors, and officers of the government. The list is extensive and will include both elected and executive officer at all levels of government.

Can I Go to Jail for Assaulting a Public Official

It is worth indicating that simple assault under California laws is classified as a misdemeanor. However, when that assault is perpetrated against a public official, the offense becomes a wobbler. Accordingly, the prosecutor may proceed with the charge as a misdemeanor or as a felony. Quite naturally, each will carry different penalties.

As a misdemeanor, assaulting a public official can lead to one-year in jail if you are found guilty or plead guilty. On the other hand, felony assault on a public official carries a maximum of four years behind bars. The amount of jail time, if any, will depend on the factors to be considered by the judge at sentencing. Paramount to the court are the particulars of each case and the criminal history of the person being sentenced.

There is no doubt that jail time is a possibility in all cases involving an assault on a public official. However, in addition to the penalty of time behind bars, a judge may impose probation as he or she may seem fit in each case. Having a San Diego assault attorney at sentencing will be important in ensuring that arguments will be presented to the court to mitigate sentencing.

Can You Defend Me Against Assaulting A Public Official

Like all others charged and before the court for a criminal matter, the law presumes that you are innocent until proven guilty. The defense of your case begins from the point of arrest and will continue to arraignment, and pre-trial hearings. Depending on the facts of the case and any new information that is discovered from further investigation, you may benefit from a charge reduction or even a dismissal. Having an attorney from the beginning is critical to ensuring that such opportunities are not missed.

If your matter must proceed to trial, you will be allowed to put forward legal defenses to prove your innocence. The particular defense will vary based on the facts of your case, and your San Diego assault attorney will be in a position to advise you on your best options. Nevertheless, the possible defenses would include the following defenses to simple assault:

  • You did not possess the ability to inflict force or violence;
  • Your actions were in self-defense;
  • You did not act willfully; or
  • You are the victim of a false accusation.

In addition to the above defenses, at your trial for assaulting a public official, your lawyer may also challenge certain elements of the specific crime, such as to whether the victim was actually a public official or that the assault was not perpetrated in retaliation or to prevent the carry out of official duties. While these defenses are not a complete defense, they could result in your charges being reduced.

How An Experienced San Diego Assault Attorney from McElfresh Law Can Help

At McElfresh Law, we have dedicated years to the practice of criminal law. Our attorneys are equipped with an in-depth knowledge of the law and an intimate understanding of the workings of the California criminal judicial system. Our standard of service is to provide high-quality legal representation to individuals charged with a crime, and for years, we have been doing so for a number of individuals, including those charged with assaulting a public official.

We understand that this can be a troubling time for you and we share in your desire to prove your innocence. Do not leave your legal representation to chance. Trust our experience and let the San Diego assault attorneys at McElfresh Law help you today at (858) 756-7107.