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Criminal Defense Information for Assault on a Custodial Officer (Cal. Penal Code s. 241)

  1. What is Assault on a Custodial Officer?
  2. What are the necessary elements to be found guilty of Assault on a Custodial Officer?
  3. What is the sentence / punishment for Assault on a Custodial Officer?
  4. What are possible defenses to charges of Assault on a Custodial Officer?
  1. What is Assault on a Custodial Officer?

    Assault on a custodial officer is essentially an attempt to commit a battery against a prison or jail guard. In other words, it is a failed attempt to cause injury to a guard. If the attempt actually results in contact with the guard, it becomes battery. It is often possible to have failed attempts (assaults) and some successful attempts (batteries) in the same set of actions, explaining why the term “assault and battery” is heard so often.

  2. What are the necessary elements to be found guilty of Assault on a Custodial Officer?

    To prove the defendant committed Assault on a Custodial Officer, the state must show that the defendant:

    1. Did an act that would be likely to directly and probably result in force being applied to another person;
    2. Acted willfully;
    3. Was aware of facts that would make a reasonable person know the act would result in force being applied to another person;
    4. Had the present ability to apply force to another person;
    5. Assaulted a person lawfuly performing duties as a custodial officer;
    6. Knew or should have known that the victim was a custodial officer and was performing his duties; and
    7. Did not act in self-defense of in defense of another.
  3. What is the sentence / punishment for Assault on a Custodial Officer?

    Assault on a custodial officer is a wobbler, meaning it can be charged and sentenced as either a misdemeanor or a felony. If charged as a misdemeanor, it carries a maximum sentence of one year in county jail. If the assault is deemed a felony, the sentence can be 16 months, two years, or three years in state prison. Cal. Pen. Code s. 241.1 Opens in New Window

  4. What are possible defenses to charges of Assault on a Custodial Officer?

    To prove someone committed a crime, the state (through its prosecutors) must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed each element of the crime. Therefore, defenses to any crime start with negating one or more of the elements of the crime. Additionally, some crimes allow for “affirmative” defenses which, if the defendant can prove the defense applies, will result in a verdict of “not guilty” even if the prosecutor proves the defendant met each of the elements of the crime.

    For Assault on a Custodial Officer, convincing the jury that the prosecutor failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant acted willfully, had the present ability to apply force to the victim, knew that his action could result in force being applied to another, knew that the victim was a custodial officer, the victim was not performing custodial officer duties, etc. would be enough to get a not guilty verdict.

    If the prosecutor can prove all the elements of Assault on a Custodial Officer, however, the defendant must prove that one or more justifications for his actions existed (i.e., it is the defendant’s burden to prove an affirmative defense). For Assault on a Custodial Officer, some of these justifications include:

    • Self-defense;
    • Defense of another;
    • Alibi;
    • Duress / Threats;
    • Necessity;
    • Accident;
    • Entrapment; and
    • Statute of Limitations.
See also, Simple Assault, Battery, Domestic Violence.