It is against federal law to forcibly assault and injure an officer of the U.S. government. In fact, the government has several laws regarding injuring an officer, and you can face felony charges for a number of different offenses, depending on the circumstances of your case.
If you were arrested for injuring a federal officer or any related crime, you should understand the charges against you so you can better prepare to defend yourself. You should also consult with an experienced federal criminal defense attorney as soon as possible for a full explanation of your rights and options and help develop an effective defense.
Who Is a Federal Officer?
Title 18 U.S.C. § 111 is the primary law that deals with injuring federal officers. The law prohibits forcibly assaulting, resisting, intimidating, or impeding certain officers and employees” of the federal government who are performing their duties, and it includes members of the uniformed services, such as military personnel. Other examples of federal officers and employees include:
- F.B.I., D.E.A., and A.T.F. agents
- Border patrol officers and I.C.E. agents
- U.S. Marshals
- I.R.S. employees
- Postal workers
- Federal judges
The law also covers officers and employees who have retired, and it prohibits forcibly assaulting a federal officer in retaliation for something they did when they were serving in an official capacity. For instance, you can face charges if you assault a judge who sentenced you to prison even though they have since retired.
Levels of the Crime and Their Penalties
The law defines three types of assault against a federal officer, each with its own level and penalties. Simple assault is a misdemeanor, and you do not have to make physical contact with the person to be charged and convicted. You can receive up to a year in jail as fines as high as $100,000.
The other two offenses are felonies, and they are each listed as enhanced penalties to assault. They are:
- Serious assault - You actually made physical contact with the person but did not use a deadly or dangerous weapon. You can also face a charge of serious assault if you assaulted the officer with the intent of committing another felony. The crime carries a maximum prison sentence of eight years and up to $250,000 in fines.
- Serious assault with a dangerous or deadly weapon – This is the most serious offense, and it is when you use a deadly weapon with the intent of causing bodily injury to the officer. The crime is a Class C felony with a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and up to $250,000 in fines.
Along with actually committing the offense, the federal government makes it a crime to conspire with others to impede or injure a federal officer or any person “holding any office, trust, or place of confidence under the United States.” The maximum prison sentence is six years, along with fines.
In addition, the government has several other laws that involve assaulting or injuring officials that fall under federal jurisdiction, and they are:
- Assault or maiming that occurs within the maritime or territorial jurisdiction of the U.S.
- Threatening or assaulting any family member of the officer or employee
- Domestic assault by a habitual offender
- Assaults against foreign officials and guests
Other laws also protect officers from interference when performing their official duties, and 18 U.S.C. § 1503 prohibits influencing or injuring any officer of the court or juror. Maximum prison sentences can range from 10 to 20 years, depending on the extent of injuries and whether the offense involved attempted murder.
Additionally, 18 U.S.C. § 119 prohibits making publicly available any restricted personal information of an officer or their immediate family member in order to intimidate or blackmail them. This includes their home address, phone number, Social Security number, personal email, or other identifying information. It carries a maximum prison sentence of five years and fines.
Examples of Injuring a Federal Officer
Example 1 – Dave receives a visit from an I.R.S. auditor to go over his business records. During the process, he and the auditor get into a heated argument, and Dave throws a large binder at the auditor. The binder strikes the auditor in the face, causing deep lacerations. Dave has just committed a serious assault against a federal employee.
Example 2 – Jack is a suspected drug dealer, and D.E.A. agents have shown up to serve a search warrant. As they enter his home, Jack pushes one of the officers, and they fall, suffering cuts, bruises, and a concussion. Jack may be charged with a felony for injuring a federal officer.
Defenses for Injuring a Federal Officer
The government takes crimes against federal officers seriously and prosecutes them aggressively. Still, the government will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you acted with intent to harm the officer.
The law doesn't offer exemptions for claiming you did not know the person was a federal officer, so it may be hard to base your defense on the fact you didn't believe they were a federal officer because they were working undercover and never offered any identification, for instance. However, you could still have defense options available, such as:
- You had no intent to harm them, and the assault was misinterpreted.
- You acted in self-defense because the officer was using excessive force.
- You acted under duress, or someone forced you to commit the assault.
In some cases, officers and prosecutors may exaggerate the facts of the assault to bring charges against you. Similarly, you could be the victim of a disgruntled officer or employee who is seeking revenge against you by fabricating the incident or falsely accusing you.
Consult With an Experienced Federal Defense Attorney
Considering all that's at stake, you want to present the strongest defense possible to increase your chances of obtaining a successful outcome.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has defended many clients in New Jersey district court on federal charges of injuring an officer and other federal offenses. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or fill out our contact form to request a confidential consultation.