Assaulting a Government Official - California Penal Code PC 217.1

Posted by Raoul Severo | Nov 19, 2020 | 0 Comments

Around the world, powerful politicians will have to make decisions, and often time these decisions may bring upon their own downfall. The opposing side will be targeting figures they do not agree with or find their presence a threat to their achievement. Unfortunately, politics sometimes goes a little further than debates and arguments. History has proven that some key political figures have paid for their lives after making decisions that upset other people.

With that said, assault against a government official is a serious crime that is punishable under California law, specifically California Penal Code PC 217.1. This law is a step harsher than a simple assault, where one can either be categorized for a misdemeanor or a felony offense.

As stated in the provision, an act can only be considered as an assault against a government official if it has the following conditions:

  • The act satisfies the legal definition of the most basic form of assault;
  • The assault was done against a public servant or a member of the immediate family of that official;
  • The assault was committed in relation to the government official's duties, whether it is to retaliate against or prevent it from being accomplished.

Previously, we have extensively covered California's assault law. We recommend that you review that article first in order to grasp basic terminologies in this crime. However, a brief definition of assault would be an attempted act of force or violence. Which means you don't actually have to accomplish the act, the attempt will suffice a conviction.

Now, the term “government official” or “public servant” may be a little too vague, but the statute has defined that certain individuals are protected in PC 217.1, such as:

  • The President or Vice President of the United States;
  • Any federal, state, or local judge/juror regardless if they are retired or currently serving;
  • Any federal, state, or local elected government employee
  • Any council member, mayor, county supervisor, sheriff, police officer, city chief of police;
  • Prosecutors regardless if they are retired or currently serving;
  • Any United States Governor of any state or territory;
  • Any public defender regardless if they are retired or currently serving;
  • Any director or secretary of any executive agency whether state or federal; and
  • A commissioner, referee, or other subordinate judicial officers

Remember that the position of the individual you assaulted does not determine your innocence, but the circumstances of the assault. For example, if you punched a stranger for catcalling your wife without knowing that the person is a public defender, you are not guilty under PC 217.1, but you may still be charged with assault. This is because it is required that the assault was politically motivated, and the scenario provided earlier had nothing to do with the man's official duties.


As we have provided an example of what is not considered an assault against a public official, we thought it is only logical to give you scenarios of what is prosecutable under PC 217.1, and these are as follows:

  • While participating in a pro-abortion rally, a senator, who is an outspoken pro-life, stands beside the crowd while wearing a very controversial shirt that said “shut up, baby killers”. Outraged, the leader of the protest charges towards the senator but the official's bodyguards manage to protect the man from the attacker.
  • The newly-inaugurated United States President decided to return to his hometown to give his thanks to his loyal supporters. During the speech, however, a heckler can be heard yelling to the President. The President tells his supporters to ignore him as he clearly is just there to ruin the event. Upset at the response of the leader, the heckler throws a large stone towards the President, missing him by just a few inches away.
  • Two policymakers are at a heated argument during a conference meeting. Suddenly, one of them picks up a chair and carries it with him as he walks towards his opponent. He then swings the chair towards the politician but other officials in the room managed to block the object. 

Related Offenses

Assaulting a government official for performing his duties is a crime that can be linked to numerous other distinct offenses, such as:

  • Simple assault;
  • Battery;
  • Battery against a peace officer;

Penalties for Assaulting a Government Official

Assaulting a government official is a “wobbler” offense, meaning the crime may either be categorized as a misdemeanor or a felony.

A misdemeanor assault of a government official can be penalized by:

  • Misdemeanor probation;
  • Not exceeding 1 year in county jail; and/or
  • A fine not more than $1,000

A felony assault of a government official can be penalized by:

  • Felony probation;
  • Either 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in county jail; and/o
  • A fine not more than $10,000

We Can Help

Here in the law office of Raoul Severo, our criminal defense lawyers understand all the details, conditions, and exemptions in PC 217.1. If you are charged with assaulting a government official, there are several legal defenses available for your case, and we are happy to inform you that not only do we have the resources, but we also have the skills of experienced defense attorneys. Reach out to us and we will get back to you in no time.

Send us a message! We'll get back to you ASAP

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