A woman tells an officer that she will not place her hands behind her back. A man refuses to take his hands out of his pockets. Both individuals get arrested and charged with “assault on a police officer,” despite the fact they never touched the officer. That is the reality of an assault on a police officer charge in Washington, DC.

There is no distinction in DC between “resisting arrest” and assault on a police officer– although those two charges mean very different things to the public and employers. The violent implications of a conviction for assault on a police officer can haunt a person for a lifetime. DC assault on a police officer conviction can affect access to employment, housing, public benefits, loans, and much else. Any time an individual makes it clear that he or she does not want to be arrested, such as pulling away from an officer’s grip, the police have the discretion to arrest the individual for assault on a police officer. If you have been charged with an assault on a police officer in Washington, DC, it is important you contact an experienced DC assault lawyer.

Elements of Offense

DC Code §22-405, assault on a member of police force, permits individuals to be arrested for “assaulting, resisting, opposing, impeding, intimidating, or interfering” with a law enforcement officer while engaged in the performance of his or her duties. This gives officers a wide range of discretion to arrest an individual for this charge, as the officer merely has to claim the person “opposed” the officer – as most do when they are being arrested.

If convicted, the sentence for an assault on a police officer can be up to 180 days in jail and/or a fine of $1000 even if the person does not touch the officer in any way. If the person does cause “significant bodily injury,” that person can be sentenced up to 10 years in prison and/or $10,000 fine for a felony charge. The violent implications of a conviction for assault on a police officer can haunt a person for a lifetime.

Assault on a Police Officer in DC

The radio station WAMU investigated assault on a police officer charges in DC by analyzing nearly 2,000 cases. The investigation unearthed shocking statistics. In two out of three of cases, the government charged the individual with only assault on a police officer. This suggests that no other crime took place and that the police may not have had the necessary probable cause to stop the individual in the first place. This conclusion is furthered by the fact that the government did not press charges in more than 40% of the arrests for assault on a police officer. The investigation also found that 90% of those charged with assault on a police officer were African American, despite the fact that African Americans only consist of 49% of the DC population. Therefore, there is clearly a racial bias based on the disparate number of African Americans charged with assault on a police officer.

Cathy Lanier, DC chief of police, stated she is urging the DC Council to change the assault on a police officer statute because it “naturally causes tensions between police and residents.” DC Council member Mary Cheh proposed a crime bill in 2015 to narrow the assault on a police officer statute. A police officer has a dangerous job. The officer runs towards dangerous situations from which the public runs away. There should be protections in place to deter or punish people from intentionally injuring an officer. However, that statute needs to be very narrow.

If you have been arrested for assault on a police officer in the District of Columbia, it is vital that you contact a DC assault on a police officer lawyer in order to maximize the potential to have your case dismissed. The criminal defense attorneys at Bruckheim & Patel have extensive experience handling assault on a police officer charges within the District of Columbia.

To receive a free initial confidential consultation, contact our skilled and knowledgeable DC APO lawyers at Bruckheim & Patel at 202-930-3464.