Pasadena Criminal Attorney

Sharen Ghatan- Lead Attorney
Over 20 Years of Experience Practicing Criminal Defense

Free Consultation

Assault On A Public Official

Assault on a public official is a crime that carries stiff penalties such as large fines and prison sentences. If you have been charged with assault on a public official in Pasadena, California, you can secure instant legal assistance by getting in touch with the Pasadena Criminal Attorney. As skilled criminal defense attorneys, we can assist you in defending against any assault allegations.

What Constitutes Assault on a Public Official in California?

California's criminal code provides special provisions that protect vulnerable members of society including public officials. Although assault against members of the general public is illegal, the legislation goes a step further and specifies assault against public officials as a separate crime with harsher penalties.

The prosecution has to prove the following factors to show that the accused committed an assault against a public official offense:

  • The accused perpetrated an assault
  • The act was perpetrated against a public official or a member of the public official's immediate family
  • The accused committed the crime either out of vengeance or to stop the public officer from carrying out their obligations

An excellent example would be using pepper spray on an official who pushed for a bill that harmed your company.


An unlawful attempt to harm someone else when you have the means to accomplish that is called an assault. In California, assault charges against a public official do not require you to cause physical harm to the official. That is, you do not need to exert force against the victim. Undertaking an act that potentially results in a force being employed against the victim is sufficient to establish this element.

When done disrespectfully or inappropriately, even the smallest touch counts. Additionally, the contact does not have to be direct. It might be done indirectly by touching the purported victim using an object.

Public Official

According to California PC 217.1(a), any person who falls under the following categories is considered a public official:

  • President or Vice President of the United States
  • Any United States state or territory's governor
  • A commissioner, judge, or any other subordinate court official
  • A state, federal, local justice, a current or retired judge or jury member
  • A state or federal elected officer
  • Any executive institution's director or secretary (state or federal)
  • Peace officer, or police chief for a municipal force
  • A mayor, member of the city council, supervisor of the county, sheriff, and law enforcement officer
  • An active or retired public defender
  • A district attorney who is currently serving or has previously served

The following individuals are included as part of any official's "immediate family":

  • Children
  • Spouses
  • Siblings
  • Stepchildren
  • Parents
  • Step siblings
  • Step parents


The final most crucial aspect of PC 217.1 (a) would be that an accused will only be charged and convicted of the crime if they intentionally assaulted a public official to stop them from performing their public obligations or in vengeance.

In other words, you cannot be found guilty of the offense in question when you assault a public officer but the attack has nothing to do with their official duties. However, you could still be found guilty of either simple assault or assault with a lethal weapon.

How Assault on a Public Official Differs From Battery on a Public Official

Among the most widespread misinterpretations in criminal practice are assault and battery. Many people think that these crimes are similar or that they are pursued jointly. However, in California, these are two distinct offenses.

As previously stated, perpetrating an assault against a public officer entails attempting to use violence or force against the officer. The best way to describe assault would be either threatening or trying to hit the victim.

Battery against a public officer, on the other hand, is when someone touches a public official using force or violence. It's important to note that this charge also covers any harmful or offensive non-consensual contact. Pushing a public official, hurling something at them, striking them with a weapon or even hands, or spitting on them are some acts of battery.

It's important to realize that the assault against an officer occurs before battery against the public official. For example, if you attempt to hurl an object at a public officer, you have perpetrated an assault. You will have committed battery when you hurled the object and injured a public official.

Different Forms of Assault

The following are the different forms of assault punishable under California law:

Simple Assault

The most basic form of assault is referred to as simple assault. It is often penalized as a misdemeanor. It's perpetrated when a person willfully or negligently inflicts bodily harm on another person. A simple assault can also be defined as the simple threat of serious harm that the purported victim genuinely believes has the probability of happening.

Aggravated Assault

This includes multiple and more serious assault counts. Aggravated assault requires the use of a deadly weapon, like a knife, firearm, car, or bat, with the intent to cause serious bodily harm, as well as the momentary or permanent infliction of harm.

Sexual Assault

Having sexual relations with someone else violently as well as without their consent is referred to as sexual assault. In other terms, it's rape and entails sexual intercourse without the permission of the purported victim. Sexual assault also includes voyeurism and inappropriate contact.

A defendant who commits a sexual offense faces harsher punishment, which could include serving life in prison.

What Penalties are Imposed for Violations of Section 217.1(a) of the California Penal Code?

Assault on a public officer is pursued as a wobbler. Therefore, the prosecution has the option of charging it as either a misdemeanor or a felony. If accused of misdemeanor assault, you could be charged with:

  • Summary or misdemeanor probation
  • A jail sentence of no more than one year
  • Maximum fines of up to $1,000

The following applies to felonies:

  • Formal or felony probation
  • Spending sixteen months, 2 years, or three years in jail under the California realignment scheme, and
  • Maximum fines of $10,000

Based on the sort of conduct demonstrated during the commissioning of the act, the defendant could be subject to receiving a strike under the Three Strikes Legislation. If the prosecution determines that your conduct amounted to a strike and this is a second strike, your penalties will be doubled. If this is your 3rd strike, you face a prison sentence ranging from 25 years to life.

A public official who has been assaulted has the authority to file a lawsuit against the accused. Since no direct physical harm must have occurred for the offender to be charged, the number of damages awarded in assault actions might differ greatly. The victim could claim compensation if they need to be hospitalized or get extensive medical care. You'll be obligated to compensate the victim for hospital expenses as well as restitution for non-economic elements such as mental anguish.

The California Realignment Program

This is a program that shifts control of some felony offenders and California probationers from the state prisons and parole authorities to probation officials and local jails. This sentencing system, which was implemented in 2011 by Assembly Bill 109, applies to anyone who has been convicted after the 1st of October 2011.

Even though the realignment program is distinct from formal probation, it includes mandatory surveillance that is carried out following the guidelines and rules that apply to a defendant on probation.

Sentencing Options Under the Realignment Program

California PC 1170 (h) provides for a range of sentencing alternatives. If necessary, the court could sentence you to the maximum sentence. As an option, the court could imprison you for the authorized amount of time before placing you under out-of-custody mandatory surveillance for the remainder of your term.

Other sentencing alternatives include work release, house arrest, furlough schemes, restorative justice, community service, as well as drug rehabilitation programs.

Legal Defenses to a Penal Code 271.1 (a) PC Violations

To defend you against PC 271.1(a) allegations, you must retain an experienced criminal defense attorney. Your counsel could seek alternative penalties or claim that the prosecution did not present sufficient evidence. Also, your attorney can attempt to have your penalties lowered or completely dismissed by using any of the following legal defenses.

No Existing Capacity to Cause Harm

There's a good chance that you might have used offensive gestures or language when you argue with a public official. You might have made an effort to harm them. You cannot, nevertheless, be found guilty of any type of assault if you were unable to harm them. Your attorney could take advantage of the fact that the plaintiff is younger or stronger than you to challenge the allegations or perhaps work to have the charges lowered to a less serious offense like disturbing the peace under PC 415 PC.

No Intent to Seek Vengeance or Interfere with the Execution of His/Her Duties

As previously stated, you can only be convicted of assault against a public official if you intentionally hurt the public official with the intent to seek retribution or prevent them from performing their official duties. As a result, you'll probably face a Simple Assault accusation due to the lack of evidence that you perpetrated the offense for the aforementioned reasons.

You Responded Out of Self-Defense or to Defend Others

This relates to PC 217.1 (a) allegations when all of the following factors are present:

  • You were concerned that you or someone else would be subject to inappropriate contact or suffer physical harm
  • You believed that the immediate use of force would keep you safe from the threat, and
  • You reacted to the threat with only minimal force.

It's vital to remember that verbal abuse, no matter how outrageous, does not constitute assault. This defense may only be used if you believed that you or someone else was at risk of physical harm or inappropriate touching.

You were Wrongly Accused

A public authority can easily claim that you committed the act in question because you were angry, jealous, or wanted revenge. This is so because California PC 217.1(a) does not stipulate that the victim should have suffered any injuries.

Every knowledgeable criminal defense attorney has handled a situation like this before and is aware of the best ways to gather evidence and question each witness to get to the bottom of the matter.

Offenses Related To Assault on a Public Official

Charges for other offenses that are related to assault against a public official could also be pursued, including:


Assault, as defined by PC 240, is defined as an attempted or actual attack on someone else that doesn't cause physical harm. Penal Code 240 assault violations are misdemeanors that carry the following penalties:

  • Misdemeanor probation
  • A six-month county jail term
  • Maximum fines of up to $1,000

Battery or Battery Causing Serious Physical Harm Under PC 242

California classifies the battery as a misdemeanor. It carries a maximum fine of $2,000 as well as a six-month jail term.

PC 242 (d) stipulates that you could be subject to harsher punishments if you caused injuries to a public official (battery resulting in serious physical harm). This offense is charged as a wobbler. You run the possibility of receiving a 2, 3, or 4-year sentence when you are found guilty of a felony battery.

Assault with a Deadly Weapon Under Penal Code 245 (a) (1)

Assault using a deadly weapon, sometimes known as ADW, is pursued as a wobbler. A felony conviction carries a 2-, 3-, or 4-year prison sentence, whereas a misdemeanor offense carries a one-year jail term.

Disturbing Peace Under Penal Code 415

Section 415 of the California Penal Code makes the following unlawful:

  • A public altercation
  • Provocative statements directed at another person in public, or
  • Make obnoxious noise that annoys other people

Disturbing the peace is a misdemeanor that carries a 90-day jail sentence. It could also be charged as an infraction in certain instances.

Battery on a Police or Public Official

A simple assault against a peace or public official is not as serious as a battery charge against a peace officer. A battery charge against a peace officer who is lawfully executing their obligations is prohibited under California PC 243.

This crime is classified as a wobbler, which means it might be penalized as a felony or misdemeanor based on your record and the circumstances surrounding the case. If the official is not injured, the battery is classified as a misdemeanor. This entails one-year imprisonment, community service duties, fines, as well as participation in an anger control course.

On the contrary, a felony carries a three-year prison sentence, a potential strike, as well as fines of up to $10,000.

Why You Need to Hire a Skilled Criminal Defense Lawyer to Represent You

The majority of defendants who choose to defend themselves do not know that reading books or publications that detail offenses, arguments, and penalties won't help them win the case. There is a significant difference between studying law and practicing it, as any knowledgeable lawyer will inform you. Your attorney understands the intricacies of an assault against a public official case, which can mean the difference between succeeding and losing the case. Your criminal defense attorney can assist in the following ways:

Negotiate a Plea Deal with the Prosecution

A proposed sentence could be reduced or dismissed as part of a plea deal. Prosecutors often refuse to bargain with offenders who defend themselves in the trial.

Additionally, your attorney is more aware of the proceedings throughout the case than you are and is much more probable to be aware of any developments. This is due to the lawyer's ability to remain unbiased during the process. These perceptions, reality checks, as well as evaluations are crucial, particularly when choosing if or not to enter a plea deal.

Create a Strong Sentencing Scheme For Your Case

Your attorney will be able to handle your issue in a way that would keep you from appearing in court again if you are found guilty of assault against a public official. For instance, your attorney might advise that, rather than doing time in prison, you serve several months in jail and the remainder of the term at an institution for anger treatment to help you deal with the emotional issues that got you into trouble.

Capacity to Gather Proof From Witnesses

Many witnesses, particularly in cases involving assaults on public figures, refuse to speak to the accused out of concern for their protection. These individuals might be inclined to discuss their testimony with your attorney.

Involve Investigators or Expert Witnesses

Investigators will look into your crime and the witnesses used by the prosecution. They will ensure that they obtain evidence that undermines the credibility of the witnesses' testimonies. Expert witnesses may also provide evidence to support your case or to refute the prosecutor's case. This makes your case much stronger.

Explains the Implications of Entering a Guilty Plea

The majority of defendants who defend themselves never consider the unforeseen repercussions of entering a guilty plea, including less severe sentences or other irrevocable repercussions. For example, it could pose a challenge to land a good job after serving a jail sentence.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are frequently asked questions on Assault On a Public Official:

If the Alleged Victim or Witness is Unable to Appear in Court, are the Assault Charges Against the Public Official Dismissed?

Based on the specifics of your situation, the response to this topic varies. There are several factors why the jurors can decide to proceed with the trial even when the witness or victim skips court or refuses to cooperate.

Among these are:

If the purported victim contacted 911 and that call was taped and released publicly as evidence, the court might not need that person to testify. Despite not being sworn testimony, this conversation could reveal what gave rise to the allegations, like threatening the plaintiff.

Victims may choose not to testify as a result of their fear of the accused. To prevent further communication with the defendant, they might even obtain a protective order against them. If you violate the terms of an order of protection, you may be subject to further legal ramifications. Additionally, attempting to prevent the witness or victim from testifying by threatening them may lead to extra-legal penalties.

 Is It Lawful to Use Voluntary Intoxication as a Defense against Assault Charges?

Anyone who attacks a public officer while intoxicated in California cannot utilize voluntary inebriation as a legal defense. It is more difficult to demonstrate your innocence when there is proof that you were intoxicated when the crime was committed. This is because you should be aware of how negatively alcohol and drugs affect a person's mental state.

If you could demonstrate that you were unintentionally inebriated, you might not be charged with Assault on a Public Official since you didn't choose to consume the alcohol or drug.

What Does Serious Physical Harm Mean?

Serious physical harm is defined as a substantial injury (which does not have to be irreversible). It is a factual issue that the court resolves based on the specifics of the matter. Chipped teeth, cuts that require stitches, extreme swelling, bruises, and fractured bones are all examples of serious physical harm.

Can I Use Provocation As a Defense?

Assaulting a public official even though you were responding to a provoking act that had not been intended to inflict physical harm or danger can not be used as a defense. However irritating or hurtful they may be, words by themselves do not justify assault.

Find a Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me

If you have been accused of assaulting a public official, you undoubtedly have a lot of things running through your mind. The best thing you could do for your case is to retain legal counsel. We at the Pasadena Criminal Attorney are conscious of your predicament and are prepared to assist you. A skilled attorney can help in any situation, regardless of how challenging it might seem. Contact us at 626-689-2277 right away, and we'll be happy to address any concerns you might have.

How Can We Help? 626-689-2277 

Charged With a Crime?

Call us now to assess your charges and explain the difference a criminal attorney can make on the results of your case