18 U.S. Code § 111 - Assault on a Federal Officer
Just as it is a crime in California to assault a police officer or peace officer, it is a federal crime to commit any assault against a federal officer defined under 18 U.S. Code § 111.
Depending on the circumstances and the severity of the alleged assault, this crime may be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or felony, with significant penalties if convicted. This federal law cover different type of offenses, such as simple assault, serious assault without a weapon, and serious assault with a dangerous or deadly weapon.
18 U.S. Code § 111 says, “whoever forcibly assaults, resists, opposes, impedes, intimidates, or interferes with any person (or formerly served) designated in section 1114 of this title who are engaged in the performance of official duties, shall be fined and imprisoned for up to one year for simple assault, and up to eight years where such acts involve physical contact with the victim of that assault or the intent to commit another felony, and use of a deadly or dangerous, or inflicts bodily injury shall be fined and imprisoned not over 20 years ”
To convict someone of simple assault, the federal prosecutor has to prove all the elements of the crime, such as showing the perpetrator forcibly assaulted a federal officer or interfered with them while engaged in the performance of their official duty or on account, and that they did this intentionally.
A simple assault does not require physical contact between the perpetrator and the federal agent. This means someone can commit an assault without ever touching the officer. Our federal criminal defense lawyers will review this law in more detail below.
Who Qualifies as a Federal Officer
18 U.S.C. 111 makes it a federal crime to assault any federal officer, agent, or employee of a U.S. government agency or member of the uniformed services.
This includes government employees on the job; it may consist of former employees (for example, if the assault occurs as an act of revenge). Examples of federal agents include, but are not limited to:
- FBI agents,
- Border patrol agents,
- U.S. marshals,
- ATF agents,
- ICE agents,
- IRS employees,
- Postal workers,
- Current or retired federal judges.
Classifications of Assault against Federal Officers and Their Penalties
18 U.S.C. 111 details three specific types of assault against a federal officer, along with the associated charges and penalties.
Simple assault involves forcibly assaulting, resisting, opposing, impeding, intimidating, or interfering with federal officers in performing their duties or as a result of their duties.
As noted, no physical contact or injury must occur for you to be charged with or convicted of this crime. Simple federal assault is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail and fines up to $100,000.
Serious Assault (No Deadly Weapon) is similar to simple assault but with two additional characteristics:
- You make actual physical contact with the officer; and
- You did so with the intent to commit another felony.
Serious assault without a weapon is a felony punishable by up to 8 years in prison and fines up to $250,000.
Serious assault with a deadly weapon or causing serious bodily injury is the most serious type of assault against a federal officer when you make physical contact with the officer and do so with a deadly weapon or cause serious bodily injury to the officer in the process.
Serious assault with a deadly weapon is a Class C felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $250,000.
What Are Some Examples of This Offense?
EXAMPLE 1: Diane is visited by an IRS auditor who asks to look at her business records. During a disagreement with the auditor, Diane angrily throws a binder of receipts at him.
The auditor dodges the binder and is unhurt. Diane may be charged with federal assault (simple assault) because she committed a forcible action that impeded the auditor from doing his job.
EXAMPLE 2: Dave's friend Juan is accosted by an ICE agent on suspicion that he is in the country illegally. To protect his friend from arrest, Dave punches the ICE agent to try and give Juan a chance to escape.
The ICE agent falls to the ground, hits his head, and suffers a concussion. Dave could be charged with Class C felony assault because his direct act of violence caused the officer serious bodily injury.
What Are the Related Federal Assault Laws?
Federal assault laws are covered under 18 U.S. Code Chapter 7 and include the following other related statutes:
- 18 U.S.C. § 112 - protection of foreign officials, official guests, or other internationally protected persons;
- 18 U.S.C. § 113 - assaults occurring within the maritime or territorial jurisdiction of the United States;
- 18 U.S.C. § 114 - maiming that occurs within the maritime or territorial jurisdiction of the United States;
- 18 U.S.C. § 115 - influencing, impeding, or retaliating against any federal officials by threatening their family members;
- 18 U.S.C. § 116 - prohibits female genital mutilation and imposes penalties that include up to five years in federal prison;
- 18 U.S.C. § 117 - domestic assault by a habitual offender that carries penalties of five to ten years in the Federal Bureau of Prisons;
- 18 U.S.C. § 118 - interference with certain protective functions that carry up to one year in federal prison if convicted;
- 18 U.S.C. § 119 - protection of individuals performing specific official duties for making restricted information available with intent to intimidate.
What Are the Common Legal Defenses?
Federal law is stringent when it comes to assaulting federal agents. The law doesn't make exceptions if the agent is retired, nor does it necessarily provide an exemption if you were unaware that the person was a federal officer.
Nevertheless, a good federal defense attorney may be able to implement some strategies to defend you against these federal charges. These are discussed below.
Perhaps we can argue that you had no intent to harm the officer or impede their duties. In other words, your actions may have been misinterpreted as assault, but you had no intention to do so.
Perhaps you reasonably believed that the person was not a federal officer. For example, the person was an undercover agent who didn't show identification.
Perhaps we can make a reasonable argument that you acted in self-defense or defense of others. If the federal officer used excessive force, you might have justified using reasonable force to protect yourself or someone else.
Perhaps you were acting under duress. This means that you were forced to commit the act under threat of harm. Maybe charges are false or exaggerated. This might be the case if the federal officer has a grudge against you or is seeking revenge.
If you were accused of assaulting a federal officer, contact our law firm to examine all the details and discuss the legal options. Perhaps negotiation with the federal prosecutor can reduce or drop the charges.
Eisner Gorin LLP is based in Los Angeles, California. We offer legal representation on federal issues across the United States. You can reach us for a case evaluation by phone or by filling out the contact form.