Assault and Battery Allegations Lodged Against Off-Duty Cops
Two off-duty sheriff's deputies from Los Angeles are preparing to stand trial on felony assault and battery charges, following a bar room brawl that broke out in downtown San Diego in December.
Irvine Criminal Defense Attorney Houman Fakhimi knows that cases such as this present challenges for both sides, but there is one factor that often tends to favor the defense: impairment.
Fights that break out in bars or nightclubs may have a large number of witnesses, but their credibility is often significantly hampered by the question of whether they were intoxicated at the time of the incident. This is compounded by the fact that such scenes tend to be crowded, dark and noisy, so the potential for confusion is quite high. Making a positive identification or saying with any certainty exactly who took what action at what time usually proves difficult for these witnesses.
The other potential benefit to assault and battery cases that occur outside the home is that they lack the element of strong identification. Unlike in a domestic situation or a house party, where people may know exactly who the accused is and have no problem pointing him out, not everyone at a nightclub knows everyone else. Even for those who were sober, proper identification of someone you don't know in the midst of the smoke and fog and strobe lights - can be a challenge.
These elements are important when proving guilt on charges of assault and battery.
California Penal code 240 addresses misdemeanor assault. It requires prosecutors to show that you intentionally acted in a way that would likely result in the application of force to another and that you were aware of this and that you had the ability to carry out such application of force. Potential defenses include the inability to carry out the threat, acting in self-defense or defense of others, lacking any intent or being wrongfully accused.
Misdemeanor battery is defined in California Penal code 242, and requires that prosecutors prove that you intentionally used force or violence on another person. Potential defenses would be similar to assault: self-defense or defense of others, but also whether the incident was accidental or was something to which the other person consented.
Either one of these is punishable by up to six moths in jail - unless the incident involved the use of a deadly weapon or someone was seriously injured as a result.
That appears to the situation surrounding the two accused L.A. deputies, as a superior court judge has ruled there is sufficient evidence for the case on the most serious charges to move forward. We don't know many details, except that they were off-duty in San Diego in the Gaslamp entertainment district when a fight broke out.
At some point, one of the off-duty deputies reportedly swiped a skateboard belonging to a witness, but a theft charge was later dropped by the judge who found there was insufficient evidence to show the deputy intended to keep the property.
Regardless of the situation surrounding your arrest, it's important to seek the advice of an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.