What is battery on a law enforcement officer?
So, obviously, a law enforcement officer is what’s called a “protected public safety official.” So if you strike a police officer, it’s going to be as treated more seriously than if you struck some normal person off the street. It’s not just law enforcement. It also applies to firefighters. EMTs. Any protected public safety official. If you strike that person, you’re going to face the felony charge of battery on a law enforcement officer.
That charge is a 3rd degree felony. That means the maximum sentence is five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. It’s also a charge that is kind of unique that the statute specifically tells the judge they’re not allowed to withhold adjudication, which means keeping you from being a convicted felon, so you must be adjudicated guilty if you’re convicted as charged. It’s also a charge that’s not eligible for any type of pretrial diversion, and it’s also a charge that is not eligible for record expungement or seal. So, if you’re convicted as charged, you will have a felony on your record with the potential for up to a five year prison sentence.
One of the strategies that we’ll use is there’s some criteria that they have to meet. The state has to prove that the person was a law enforcement officer or protected public safety official, and it has to have been readily apparent to the defendant that this person was a public safety official. So it comes up in situations where maybe the officer was working off-duty detail in plainclothes, or maybe in their own personal vehicle instead of a marked patrol vehicle. If we can make that argument that you didn’t know that that person was acting in their duties as a public safety official, we might be able argue for a reduced charge, maybe just down to simple misdemeanor battery, where you wouldn’t face a felony.
The other thing that we’ll do in these types of cases is we’re going to schedule a deposition with the arresting officer, the person that’s considered the victim of the crime. Before we have that deposition, I’m going to ask you to write a letter of apology to that officer, and at the appropriate time at the deposition, I’m going to present that letter to the officer, and I’m going to ask the officer if they would agree to either reduce charge, a dismissal, or pretrial diversion which will reduce the charge.
I am always surprised at how often officers agree to that, and I think it’s a situation where in the heat of the moment, they’re super angry, but after some time goes by, maybe they realized that the person was intoxicated or the person was in a heated emotional argument with someone, things got out of hand. I’ve had officers tell me time and time again “I don’t want to ruin that person’s life, so yes, I will agree to the reduced charge and to give this some sentencing flexibility.” But, either way, you and I will discuss when we meet whether or not that might be appropriate in you case. We’ll talk about what options we’ve got, doing everything we can to keep a felony off your record and keep you out of jail.