Assault on an Officer in Alabama
In Alabama, the assault of an officer is a combined offense under a second-degree assault prosecution, which is a considered a Class C felony. This type of assault is defined as a person who assaults an officer with an intent to prevent a police officer from performing a lawful duty and thus causing injury to that police officer. This is a higher classification than an assault on a lay person without serious physical injury, which is a Class A misdemeanor.
Due to the severity of this offense, if you are facing charges of assault on an officer in Alabama, you should contact an experienced assault attorney who will be able to build a defense for your case.
Severity of An APO Charge
In Alabama, when a person who is being arrested causes serious injury to a police officer, a second-degree assault is charged. The distinction in assault charges between typical assault and assault on an officer in Alabama is that if the assault occurred against a lay person, it is a misdemeanor versus a felony. It must be shown, however, that the assault of the officer happened within in the furtherance of some official duty of that officer.
Under a second-degree assault prosecution, not only are police officers protected but also any correctional or jail personnel, emergency medical personnel, utility workers, firefighters, as well as teachers and healthcare workers are protected under a second-degree assault charge.
Proving Assault on an Officer
In most circumstances in Alabama, the assault of an officer falls under a felony charge, which means the penalty is up to 10 years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
Prosecutions for assault of officers are taken seriously by law enforcement court systems. Often, the prosecution more aggressively moves forward and prosecutes the assault of an officer then they might for a standard assault charge. As well, many diversionary or mitigation type pleas are not offered when an officer is involved in the assault.
The elements a prosecutor must prove in Alabama for an assault on an officer case are that the person charged with assault had a specific intent to prevent the peace officer from performing some lawful duty and had a specific intent to cause physical injury.
The body cameras police officers use can be helpful in weighing the facts and evidence of any prosecution, not only for the prosecution but also for the defense. It helps courts and lawyers evaluate whether the charge should go to trial or whether it should be mitigated and pled, as well as what level of an assault should be charged.
Building a Defense
In Alabama, an assault of an officer’s case is brought in the same way and heard the same in courts as any other assault charge. However, there might be a recusal issue of the sitting judge or maybe even the prosecution because if the officer frequently appears in that court, the judge might have a bias from frequent dealings and may not feel that they can be partial and fair and therefore appoint a judge from another jurisdiction to hear the case.
Many times when an experienced assault lawyer takes on an assault of an officer case, they look to whether the interaction with the police officer was lawful. If the basis of the interaction was unconstitutional or unlawful, an argument can be made that the furtherance of the duty was not a lawful one, therefore there could be no assault. The intent of the person is something that the prosecution must always prove, so a skilled assault lawyer in Alabama can challenge the proof of the intent.