What is an assault on a federal officer?
18 USC § 111 makes it a crime to assault a federal agent. Surprisingly, this law creates three different crimes. They are:
- Simple Assault;
- Serious Assault without a weapon; and
- Serious Assault with a dangerous or deadly weapon.
Chiefly, these crimes turn on two key facts. They are injuries and weapons.
To illustrate, if the person did not touch the officer or use a weapon, then the crime is a misdemeanor. This means it carries up to one year in jail. In contrast, if the person hurt the officer or used a weapon during the crime, then it will turn into a felony. Consequently, the person will may get a lot more jail time.
How does the government prove the crime of Simple Assault on a Federal officer?
To convict a person of simple assault, the government must prove three facts:
- The person forcibly assaulted [or resisted, opposed, impeded, intimidated, or interfered with] a federal officer;
- The federal officer was forcibly assaulted [or resisted, opposed, impeded, intimidated, or interfered with] while engaged in the performance of his official duty or on account of the performance of official duties; and
- That the person did this intentionally.
Notably, the words in brackets are different ways to commit the crime of simple assault. And this gives prosecutors more leeway on how to prove up their case.
Finally, a key point of simple assault is it does not require any physical contact between the suspect and agent. This means a person can commit an assault without ever touching the officer.
How does the government prove the crime of Serious Assault on a Federal Officer without a Dangerous Weapon?
To convict a person of serious assault without a weapon, the government must prove simple assault plus the following fact:
- (Fact 4): The acts involved physical contact with the officer or intent to commit another felony.
Unlike simple assault, this type of assault requires physical contact between the person and the federal agent.
How does the government prove the crime of Forcibly Assaulting a Federal Officer with a Deadly Weapon?
To convict a person of assault with a deadly weapon, the government must prove simple assault plus the following fact:
- (Fact 4-a): The person used a deadly or dangerous weapon or inflicted bodily injury.
This is the most serious of the three assaults. This is because the conduct is the most extreme. In the most common scenarios, the person uses a gun against the officer or stabs the officer with a knife.
What are the penalties for assaulting a federal agent?Simple assault is a misdemeanor crime. It carries up to one year in jail.
On the other hand, serious assault without a deadly weapon is a felony that carries up to eight years in jail.
Similarly, serious assault with a deadly weapon is a felony. But it carries up to 20 years in jail.
The table below summarizes these three penalties.
|No.||Offense||Type||Jail Time||Fine Amount|
|1||Simple Assault||Misdemeanor||Up to 1 year in jail.||Up to $100,000.00|
|2||Assault without a weapon||Class D Felony||Up to 8 years in jail.||Up to $250,000.00|
|3||Assault with a weapon||Class C Felony||Up to 20 years in jail.||Up to $250,000.00|
What are examples of assaulting a federal agent?
- Pushing or shoving a Border Patrol Agent who is stopping a noncitizen from entering the country;
- Punching a U.S. Marshal who is making a fugitive arrest;
- Shooting at an ATF agent while the agent is conducting an investigation; or
- Slapping an FBI Agent who is interrogating a suspect.
Assaulting a Federal Officer Criminal Defense.
Assaulting a federal officer is a serious crime. And it carries stiff jail terms. However, the details in these types of crimes matter. A person in this situation should consider the following facts:
- Did her or she make any physical contact with the officer?
- Was the officer injured during the assault?
- Did the person use a gun, knife, or a club during the assault?
The answers to these questions will determine how much jail time a person may get.
In addition, a person charged with this type of assault should consider the duress defense. This defense in a nutshell is: “Yes, I did it, but I had no choice.” This defense is possible in some cases. But it is hard to prove. This is because judges do not want people assaulting agents who are doing their jobs.
Nonetheless, this defense is available. And it is possible to raise it when the agent’s conduct is over the top. For example, where the agent beats the person while making the arrest. But the key to this defense is that the person must not provoke the assault.
San Antonio Defense Attorney Genaro Cortez.