A Chicago man was charged in mid-May with felony aggravated assault, among other charges, for threatening to kill a police officer with an ice pick. Unfortunately for him, in Illinois assault of a police officer is immediately classified as an aggravated offense and carries stiffer penalties than if the crimes were committed against an ordinary citizen.
Illinois Assault Charges
Police in Riverside received a call about a “suspicious” man who was banging on the front door of a residence and repeatedly ringing the doorbell. An officer responded and approached the man, asking why he was banging on the door. According to police reports, he told police he would not show them his identification (although it is unclear if the officer had even requested it), and then allegedly reached into his pocket, pulled out an ice pick and threatened to kill the officer. The man fled the scene when the officer pulled his gun and ordered him to drop the ice pick. He struggled when police caught up with him, but was quickly subdued.
In Illinois a person commits assault if he knowingly “places another person in reasonable apprehension of receiving a battery” – or in everyday language, if the alleged victim had a reasonable fear that the defendant was about to cause him physical harm. Simple assault is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by less than 30 days in jail and a maximum fine of $1,500, or between 30 and 120 hours of community service if no jail time is imposed.
But the victim in this case was a police officer, and on January 1, 2011, the law was changed to impose stiffer penalties in Illinois assault and battery cases where a police officer is the victim.
Assault of Illinois Police Officer
In 2010 the Illinois legislature passed a law that imposed harsher penalties on individuals who committed assault or battery against an on-duty officer. When the law went into effect on January 1, 2011, simple assault was immediately upgraded to aggravated assault if the victim was a police officer. The assault did not have to be any more menacing for the charge to move up to aggravated – it just had to be committed against an officer of the law. With the upgraded charge came increased penalties: a Class 4 felony and up to three years imprisonment and/or a $25,000 fine.
But while the charge was reclassified and the penalties increased, mounting a defense against a charge of aggravated assault of a police officer is not much different than defending against a charge of simple assault against an ordinary citizen. Aggravated assault against a police officer occurs if the officer was assaulted:
- While performing official duties;
- To prevent performance of official duties; or
- In retaliation for performing official duties.
Defenses against this charge could include whether the defendant was aware that the assaulted person was a police officer; for example, if the officer was dressed in plain clothes, if he didn’t identify himself on approach, or if he was in an unmarked police cruiser. If it was impossible for the defendant to have known the victim was a police officer, it may be possible to have the charge reduced to simple assault.
Whether the charge is reduced to simple assault or remains at aggravated, defense against the assault portion would be the same whether against a police officer or an ordinary citizen. The basis of an assault charge is whether the alleged victim could have reasonably feared being physically injured.
Whatever the circumstances and whomever the alleged victim, an attorney will scrutinize all of the evidence and witness testimony to get the aggravated assault charges against you reduced or dismissed entirely. Continue reading