In theory, law enforcement is supposed to protect the community against crime. This might feel true to you until police turn their suspicion of criminal activity towards you. For someone who has never been arrested before or has no history with authorities, facing arrest by law enforcement can feel jarring, offensive, and completely unfair. Some people feel very strongly that police should just back off and let them go about their business. Unfortunately, doing things like raising your voice at a police officer is one way to escalate the situation in a hurry. Between being scared and angry, you want to lash out. Charges of assault on an officer are placed when someone physically hits a law enforcement officer, this will not only ruin your day, but a conviction would make you a felon for life.
If you or someone you know is facing a criminal charge in Maine, such as Assault on an Officer, contact The Nielsen Group for your free legal consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
In this article I will attempt to answer the following questions:
- What is an example of Assault on an Officer?
- What is the Statute for Assault on an Officer in Maine?
- How can a Criminal Defense Attorney Help?
- Is there a court process for Assault on an Officer in Maine?
- What are possible outcomes for Assault on an Officer in Maine?
What is an example of Assault on an Officer?
Here is a fictional illustration of what Assault on an Officer might look like.
Branden went to a protest event in Portland where he wanted to make a difference. Police came in and then ordered the mass of people to leave. Instead of leaving, Branden and others stayed and sat on the ground chanting protest slogans. When a police officer tried to pick up Branden from the ground to move him, Branden took extreme offense. He turned around and punched the police officer in the face. Immediately three other officers came over and took him down. Branden was charged with Failure to Disperse, Resisting Arrest, and Assault on an Officer. While the first two charges are misdemeanors the charge for Assault on an Officer is a Class C Felony, which this article deals with specifically.
What is the Statute for Assault on an Officer in Maine?
Under Maine Statue 17-A M.R.S.A. Section 752-A, a person has committed an Assault on an Officer if:
- That person “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to a law enforcement officer while the officer is in the performance of his official duties,” or
- “While in custody pursuant to an arrest or pursuant to a Court order, the person commits an assault on a corrections officer, corrections supervisor or another member of the staff of an institution while the staff member is performing official duties.”
The “Officer” in the charge of Assault on an Officer, can be a uniformed law enforcement officer or a corrections officer working in the jails and prisons.
The “Assault” part of the charge uses the statutory definition for Assault. A criminal “assault” is any form of contact that is offensive to another person. Classic examples of an assault are punching and kicking. But an assault does not have to cause major injury. Gabbing an arm or a leg, or a push or a shove, even a slap can also be the assault.
A charge for Assault on an Officer is a Class C felony. If convicted of a Class C felony, the maximum penalties include up to $5,000.00 in fines and up to five (5) years jail time. And, a felony conviction means that you would be designated as a felon. Felon status is permanent. Felons lose permanently their second amendment rights to own or possess firearms. And a felon faces an uphill road in finding and keeping employment.
How Can a Criminal Defense Attorney Help?
Facing a charge of Assault on an Officer, the District Attorney’s Office is not likely to sympathize with your point of view. You need an experienced criminal defense attorney who knows the law and how to approach defending your case at Court.
Can the State prove the required state of mind? To get a conviction on a charge of Assault on an Officer, the State must prove the Defendant’s state of mind as an element of the crime. The statute says that the state of mind, or mens rea, for Assault on an Officer is “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly.” These are legal terms with specific definitions under Maine Statute 17-A M.R.S.A. Section 35:
- “Intentional” state of mind- When a person consciously had the objective to cause such a result. In other words, did you mean that to happen?
- “Knowing” state of mind- When a person is aware that it is certain that their conduct will cause that result. In other words, did you know that what you did would cause what happened?
- “Reckless” state of mind- When a person consciously disregards a risk that the person’s conduct will cause such a result. In other words, did you know about the risk, but did it anyway?
Does the Defendant otherwise have a clean criminal record? If the defendant has no other criminal history, this can be brought up in the negotiation of a resolution with the District Attorney’s.
Fight the State’s evidence at every angle. Ultimately, can the State prove the case against you? If an officer complains of an assault, what evidence can the State present that the assault actually happened? Is there sufficient video evidence to support the criminal complaint? Most important for a criminal defense attorney is to not just take what the State says at face value, but to always examine the evidence closely.
What is the Court Process for Assault on an Officer?
The Court process for Assault on an Officer is in the Maine Unified Criminal Docket, which is the process in all County criminal Courts in Maine.
Assault on an Officer is a Class C felony. Facing a felony, you first must be Indicted by a grand jury. So your first court appearance is actually an Initial Appearance. You are not formally charged until you have been Indicted. After Indictment, you can be Arraigned, which is when the charges are read to you and you enter a plea of Not Guilty. The first opportunity to resolve the case outside of Trial is the Dispositional Conference. If no agreement at the Dispositional Conference, then the case proceeds to potential Motion Hearings and Jury Selection/ Trial. At Trial, a Jury will determine the issue of guilt or innocence.
What are the possible Outcomes for Assault on an Officer under Maine Law?
Here are the possible outcomes for a charge of Assault on an Officer in Maine:
- Dismissal– in a Dismissal, the District Attorney dismisses the criminal charge in its entirety. A dismissal is the best possible outcome in a criminal case.
- Plea Arrangement– in a Plea Arrangement, the Defendant can agree to a lesser charge, or to a different charge of the same degree of severity. For example, the Defendant can agree to a guilty plea on a simple Assault charge, which is a Class D misdemeanor, to avoid the felony.
- Jury Verdict– if a case goes all the way through a Jury Trial, then the Jury decides whether or not the defendant is Guilty or Not Guilty. The Jury determination is the final say on guilt or innocence. If convicted, then the Judge will determine the sentence imposed.
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