We live in a time of increasing confrontation. When that confrontation includes the police, emotions can run high and things can escalate quickly into a physical confrontation. That physical confrontation can include assault and battery on a police officer in Oklahoma. If you are facing charges in Tahlequah, here are some things that you may want to know.
Understanding Assault And Battery First
Understanding what assault and battery really are legally is the first step. Assault and battery are really two separate crimes but because they often occur together, they are often charged together.
The easiest way to understand the basics is to think of an assault as a threat of force and a battery as the force applied or completed. When you raise your hand to slap someone, that is assault in Oklahoma. When you actually slap someone, that is battery.
Legal Definitions Of Assault And Battery In Oklahoma
In Oklahoma, assault is legally any intentional attempt or threat of force or violence against another person. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 641
Battery is the intentional and unlawful use of force or violence against another. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 642
Both acts must be intentional. An accidental gesture is not an assault, and accidental contact is not a battery.
Assault and battery have a number of specialized types in Oklahoma, including assault and battery on a police officer.
Assault And Battery On A Police Officer Defined
Oklahoma law makes it unlawful to assault a police officer without just cause. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 649
“Police officer” is broadly defined to include any sheriff, deputy sheriff, highway patrolman, corrections personnel, or other state peace officer in the performance of their duties.
Assault and battery on a police officer includes any attempt to reach for or gain control of that gun. This is true even if you never touch the officer.
In order to be actionable, the defendant must know that the victim is a police officer. Thus, not knowing is a defense. If a police officer is out of uniform, driving an unmarked car, does not identify themselves as a police officer, and is unknown to the defendant, the enhanced penalties associated with assault and battery on a police officer will not apply.
Just cause is another possible defense. The actions involved must have occurred “without cause.” If the arrest is unlawful, reasonable resistance does not constitute an assault and battery. However, this is a complicated defense and should be explored with your attorney.
If the officer was not engaged in the performance of their duties, you may also have a defense. This too may be a complicated defense, as it is not always easy to determine when a police officer is engaged in their duties.
An officer performing a traffic stop would certainly be acting in the performance of their duties. However, even an officer who has finished the actual traffic stop and moved back to their vehicle to begin a report would be performing their duties.
Also, the law provides that even an officer who is off duty may be acting in the performance of a duty under certain circumstances. An assault or battery that relates back to, or has to do with their position as a law enforcement officer may be actionable under the law.
In contrast, if an officer is off duty, without a gun or uniform, and at a place of private employment not related to their work as an officer, the officer may not be acting in the performance of their duties (Stewart v. State, 1974 OK CR 173, 527 P.2d 22)
Again, this is a tricky defense and very fact-bound. Even the tiny facts in your case matter as you are trying to build a strong defense. Thus, you need to speak to a Tahlequah attorney right away if you are facing charges.
Penalties For Assault and Battery On A Police Officer In Oklahoma
If convicted of assault, you could spend up to six months in jail, pay a fine of up to $500, or both.
If convicted of assault and battery, you could face up to five years in prison or up to a year in jail. You could also face a fine of up to $500.
If the officer is gravely injured, the penalties are much higher — up to life in prison in addition to fines. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 §§ 646, 650
Free Consultation: Tahlequah Criminal Defense Lawyer
Please contact a Tahlequah criminal defense lawyer to discuss your available legal options if you are facing charges for assault and battery on a police officer in Oklahoma.
For a free consultation, call Wirth Law Office – Tahlequah at 918-458-2677 or toll-free at 1-888-447-7262.
Or, if you prefer e-mail, you may enter a legal question in the form at the top right of this page and we’ll contact you by e-mail as soon as possible.