California Penal Code Section 217.1(a) PC: Assault On A Public Official

1. Definition and Elements of the Crimeassault defense

Public officials are required to make important policy decisions as part of their service. These decisions are often unpopular and in many cases, politicians and public officials may find themselves to be the target of threats and even physical attacks. The California legislature has recognized this danger and accordingly has made assault on a public official a criminal offense under California Penal Code Section 217.1(a) PC that can result in serious consequences for those convicted.

In order to prove a defendant committed the offense of assault on a public official, a prosecutor must be able to establish the following elements:

  1. The defendant committed an assault with a deadly weapon or by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury.

  2. The defendant committed an assault on the person of a government official, former government official, or the immediate family of any of these officials.

  3. AND the defendant acted in retaliation for or to prevent the performance of the victim’s official duties.

The list of victims that could expose a defendant to criminal liability under California Penal Code Section 217.1(a) PC include:

  1. Judges, commissioners, referees or other bench officers

  2. Secretaries or directors of any state or federal agency

  3. Mayors

  4. City Council Members

  5. County Supervisors

  6. Sheriffs

  7. District Attorneys/Prosecutors

  8. Public Defenders
2. Related Offenses

Other similar or related offenses include:

  1. Assault - California Penal Code Section 240 PC

  2. Battery - California Penal Code Section 242 PC

  3. Battery Causing Serious Bodily InjuryCalifornia Penal Code Section 243(d) PC

  4. Assault with a Deadly WeaponCalifornia Penal Code Section 245(a)(1) PC

  5. Battery on a Police OfficerCalifornia Penal Code Section 243(b) PC and California Penal Code Section 243(c)(2) PC
3. Examples

A man has been charged with kidnapping in violation of California Penal Code Section 207 PC and is represented by a public defender. The man does not agree with the way his case is being handled and focuses his anger towards his public defender. Once day, while reviewing defense strategies the man becomes enraged and attacks the public defender with force sufficient to cause great bodily injury. The man could be charged with assault on a public official in violation of California Penal Code Section 217.1(a) PC.

In another example, a man is at a bar one night when a drunk stranger spills a drink on him. The man loses his temper and attacks the stranger, hitting him with a pool cue until the other man loses consciousness. The man did not know it at the time, but the stranger was a local city council member. While the man may be charged with assault with a deadly weapon in violation of California Penal Code Section 245(a)(1) PC, he would not be criminally liable for assault on a public official because he did not know the other man was a public official and he did not harm him in retaliation for or in prevention of an official duty.

4. Defenses to Assault on a Public Official

An individual charged with this offense may have a valid self-defense/defense of others claim if the use of force was conducted to protect himself or another person from an impending attack. A person is allowed to reasonable use force to protect himself or others from a threat of immediate harm, even if that threat comes from someone who is a public official.

5. Penalties

Assault on a public official is a “wobbler” offense that can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on factors such as the severity of the attack, the criminal history of the defendant and the circumstances surrounding the incident. If charged and convicted of this offense as a felony, the defendant can be sentenced to up to three years in prison. If filed as a misdemeanor, the maximum penalty is a year in jail.

6. Criminal Defense for Assault on a Public Official Cases

Assault on a public official is a serious criminal offense that can carry severe consequences for those convicted. If you or a loved have been charged with this offense, it is crucial that you meet with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer immediately. As a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience, Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut understands the sensitive nature surrounding charges like this and works hard to ensure his client’s receive the most thorough defense available.

For more information about assault on a public official, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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