Assault and Battery on a Police Officer

Assault and battery on a public official (ABPO) is one of the more common crimes we see charged in state District Court. We represent individuals accused of ABPO throughout the Greater Boston and surrounding areas. Officers frequently add this charge, along with resisting arrest, when they use force in the course of an arrest, whether or not the person arrested was charged with anything else. The law applies most frequently to police officers, but can be used when the alleged victim is any of a wide range of public employees, from MBTA bus or train drivers to parking enforcement officers to firefighters and beyond. ABPO is a misdemeanor, but may be considered a crime of violence for certain purposes, which can create problems down the line. Anyone facing this charge should take it very seriously.

In order to prove a charge of ABPO, the government must show that the defendant touched an individual without any justification or excuse, that the touching was intentional, that the touching was either likely to cause bodily harm or done without the individual’s consent, that the individual was a police officer or other public employee, that the defendant knew the individual was a police officer or other public employee, and that the individual was engaged in his or her public duties at the time. Alternately, the Commonwealth can prevail on a charge of ABPO by proving that the defendant intentionally engaged in reckless conduct that caused bodily injury to a police officer or public employee engaged in public duties, and the defendant knew that the individual was a police officer or public employee. The defendant does not have to have intended to cause injury to the alleged victim.

There is no requirement that an officer be injured substantially, or that the touching be of a particular type. Thus, the statute can cover anything from a violent attack on a police officer to poking a government employee with one’s finger while arguing about a fee or tax. People who make physical contact with officers while running away from, or being attacked by, the police sometimes find themselves charged with ABPO. This law can also apply if an officer or official fears or believes that she is going to be attacked, and hurts herself while fleeing or fighting back.

A number of defense strategies may be available to someone facing an ABPO charge. Like any other assault charge, self-defense can be a valid justification leading to an acquittal. In some circumstances, physical contact may have been accidental and not intentional or reckless. It may be possible to argue that a defendant did not know the alleged victim was a police officer, for instance, if they were in plain clothes and did not identify themselves. If the alleged victim may have been off duty or on break, we may be able to contest whether they were performing their public duties at the time. These are only a few examples of possible strategies we would consider in defending against an ABPO charge.

If you have been charged with ABPO, please contact us at 617-742-6020 to speak with one of our attorneys.

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