Assaulting an officer is a serious offense that can have serious consequences for an individual. Law enforcement officers are seen as respected figures of the community and an assault on them is often seen as a lack of respect for that authority. If you have been charged with assaulting an officer, it is important that you consult an experienced assault attorney as soon as possible. Defending DC assault on an officer charges is easier with a skilled lawyer on your side.
The most significant difference between assault on a police officer and a normal assault case is that a person is not legally permitted to use force to resist an arrest even if the arrest is ultimately found to be unlawful. Even if a person can prove that an arrest or a police action is not legally justified, a person in that situation is still not able to use force to resist that arrest.
However, a person is allowed to resist an arrest when the officer uses substantially more force than necessary under the circumstances. If the circumstances do not warrant a high level of force to conduct an arrest, a person cannot be convicted of assault on a police officer if they use force to resist the force used by the officer if the force used by the person is proportionate.
These rules are different from the self-defense arguments in simple assault cases against laypersons. Laypersons do not have the legal authority to use any amount of force unless it is in self-defense. A layperson does not have the lawful ability to conduct a citizen’s arrest or use force against another person in the same way as a law enforcement officer. That makes these two charges different from one another.
When defending DC assault on an officer charges, there are certain defense strategies an individual could use. One important defense in any assault on a police officer case is that the actions allegedly committed by a person do not actually rise to the level of an assault.
DC legislators specifically removed certain kinds of actions from the assault on a police officer law because they felt that the law was overly broad. Assault on a police officer used to include assaulting, resisting, intimidating, or interfering with the police officer. It is now narrowed to include only assaults. Other defenses include the defense that an individual was passively resisting the officer, and that the officer used excessive force.
A defense strategy in an assault on a police officer case is that a person was passively resisting a police officer engaging in their duties. That means while the person was not physically compliant with the officer, the failure to comply with the officer does not rise to the level of an assault. Another defense in assault on a police officer case is that a person actively resisted the officer but did so as a reflex to minimize pain.
As an example, while engaging in an arrest, the officer is placing strain against a person’s joints or committing some other action that causes severe pain to the person and the person instinctively moved or resisted to minimize that pain. That act of resistance does not rise to the level of an assault; it is an instinctual attempt that any reasonable person would commit to minimize extreme pain.
One of the other strategies a person can use when defending DC assault on an officer charges is that the police officer used substantially more force than what was necessary given the circumstances of the incident. In those situations, a person is permitted to defend themselves using a proportionate amount of force against the officer.
In the event that those defenses do not rise to the level of complete defenses against the allegations, they can still be used as mitigating factors to minimize the penalties a person might face if they are convicted. Arguments on resistance or actions that do not place the officer in any jeopardy can be made at sentencing to reduce the possibility of a jail time sentence and to generally minimize the penalties a person faces if they are convicted of a charge of assault on a police officer.
The main difference between assault on a police officer cases and simple assault cases is the eligibility in an assault on a police officer case to be heard by a jury. In most simple assault cases, a person can only have their case heard before a judge. Because assault on a police officer carries a maximum possible penalty of up to six months of jail time, the person has the option of having their case heard before a jury.
This is a significant advantage because it creates a check on the power of the police by the community they are obligated to defend. Because police officers are tasked with serving the public, it is only appropriate that the public has the right to determine whether alleged assaults against those police officers are justified. Jury trials can be helpful when defending DC assault on an officer charges because a jury may be more understanding. Individuals who have been charged with assault on an officer should work with qualified defense attorneys who could build their defense.
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