It is against federal law to injure an officer of the United States, and you can face felony charges that will have a considerable impact on your future. If federal prosecutors have charged you with injuring an officer or any related offense, or even if you are under investigation, you should understand the laws and the potential penalties you could face, so you know what to expect.
You should also reach out to an experienced federal criminal defense attorney immediately to review your case, advise you of your rights and options, and help you develop an effective defense.
Who Are Federal Officers?
A federal officer is anyone who works for the U.S. government in an official capacity or any person “holding any office, trust, or place of confidence under the United States.” Federal officers can include a broad range of law enforcement personnel, including:
- FBI agents
- DEA agents
- ATF agents
- ICE agents and border patrol officers
- U.S. Marshals
Officers can also be members of the uniformed services or armed forces, and the law protects certain employees of the federal government as well, such as:
- Postal workers
- IRS employees
- Census takers
- Social Security Administration staff
- Federal judges
The law also covers retired officers and employees.
It is against the law to assault or injure an officer or employee who is performing their official duties, and the law prohibits assaulting or injuring an officer or employee in retaliation for something they did when they were working for the federal government.
For instance, you can face charges if you assault a federal judge because of a harsh sentence they gave you, even if several years have passed and they have since retired. Another example is assaulting an IRS officer or even a postal worker if they are performing their official duties.
Of course, you can face serious felony charges for assaulting any member of federal law enforcement, and you can receive additional charges for obstruction of justice as well.
Levels of Assault and Their Penalties
Assaulting or injuring a federal officer has three levels of severity that include:
- Simple assault – A misdemeanor. You can face charges for merely threatening to injure an officer, and you do not have to make physical contact. You can receive up to a year in jail and up to $100,000 in fines.
- Serious assault – A felony offense in which you actually struck the person and caused serious bodily injury, but you did not use a dangerous weapon. An enhanced penalty to simple assault, the crime carries an eight-year maximum prison sentence and fines of up to $250,000.
- Serious assault with a dangerous or deadly weapon – The most serious offense and a Class C felony, it is when you use a deadly weapon with the intent of causing bodily injury to the officer. It carries a 20-year maximum prison sentence and fines of up to $250.
Also, if an officer dies from the injuries you caused, you can face up to life in prison or even the death penalty.
Additionally, you can face charges for conspiring with others to impede or injure a federal officer. The crime carries a six-year maximum prison sentence and substantial fines.
Along with assault, you can face charges for other related offenses, depending on the circumstances of your case. Other federal laws involving assaulting or injuring officials include:
- Threatening or assaulting any member of a federal officer or employee's immediate family
- Committing domestic assault if you are a habitual offender
- Assaulting someone within the special maritime or territorial jurisdiction of the United States
- Assaulting foreign officials and guests
Other federal laws that protect officers, employees, and other special parties include:
- Influencing or injuring officer or juror generally (18 U.S.C. § 1503) – It's against the law to intimidate, influence, or injure any juror or officer of the court. Maximum prison sentences range from 10 to 20 years in prison depending on the extent of injuries and whether the crime involved attempted murder.
- Protection of individuals performing certain duties (18 U.S.C. § 119) – You cannot make public any restricted personal information of an officer or their immediate family member to intimidate or blackmail them. Restricted information includes their home address and phone number, personal email, Social Security number, or other identifying information. You can face up to five years in prison, along with fines and possibly restitution.
If convicted of any related crimes, you can receive additional penalties on top of those you receive for assault.
Fighting Charges of Injuring a Federal Officer
Federal prosecutors aggressively pursue charges of injuring an officer and will fervently try to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. However, they will have to show you meant to cause harm or were serious in your threats. Therefore, you need an experienced and assertive attorney on your side to objectively analyze all the evidence and help you build the strongest defense while fighting for your rights and future.
After reviewing your case, your attorney may discover several options that can help you fight the charges or even have them dismissed. Some options may include:
- You did not mean to harm the person.
- They misinterpreted your actions as assault.
- You acted in self-defense
- The officer used excessive force.
- Someone coerced or forced you to commit the assault.
Another defense option could lie in mistaken identity if you can show you were not involved in the crime at all. Sometimes, people make false accusations for revenge or simply out of spite.
Get Help From an Experienced Federal Defense Attorney
No matter the reason, you have the right to defend yourself, and you want to do all you can to increase your chances for success. For help, you can contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or fill out our contact form to request a confidential consultation.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has many years of experience defending clients in Pennsylvania Eastern and Middle District Courts for injuring an officer and other federal offenses. He will advise you of your options and help you devise the most effective defense strategy against the charges.