Assault on a Public Official - California Penal Code Section 217.1(a)


P.C. 217.1(a), or Assault on a Public Official, is an intentional act by one person using a "deadly weapon," or with force likely to cause great bodily injury that creates an apprehension in another of an imminent, harmful, or offensive contact.

 To prove that the defendant is guilty of assault under PC 217.1(a), the prosecution must prove the following facts or elements:

  • That the defendant committed an assault as defined in P.C. 240; and
  • That the assault was committed against a "public official" or a member of a public official's immediate family; and
  • That the assault was committed either in retaliation for, or to prevent the performance of, the public official's official duties.

A "public official" is defined in P.C. 217.1(a) as any of the following:

  • The President or Vice-President of the United States;
  • The Governor of any U.S. state or territory;
  • A present or former federal, state or local justice, judge or juror;
  • A commissioner, referee or other subordinate judicial officer;
  • The secretary or director of any executive agency (federal or state);
  • A federal or state elected official;
  • A mayor, city council member, county supervisor, sheriff, peace officer or municipal chief of police;
  • A current or former prosecutor;
  • A current or former public defender.

The immediate family of these officials includes spouses, children, step-children, siblings, step-siblings, parents and step-parents.


Assault on a Public Official must be committed with the intention of retaliating against or prevention of the performance of the official's duties. As with other assaults, the attempted attack need not be successful to result in a charge. However, if the assault was unrelated to the official's duties there can be no P.C. 217.1(a) charge, but still may be charged as a simple assault.

Some examples:

Mary is angry at Steve, the prosecutor in her husband's case, for refusing to make a plea deal. At the sentencing hearing she removes her shoe and tries to hit him in the face with the 3" heal. Steve ducks and is glanced on the shoulder. Steve is not injured, but Mary still can be charged under P.C. 217.1(a) since the attack need not be successful.

Doug, a social worker and homeless advocate, is at a bar and has been drinking quite a bit. Tom, a city council member is at the same bar and is joking with his friends about having the homeless rounded up by police. Doug throws his glass at Tom's head.  Doug may be charged with P.C. 217.1(a), since the attack may have been related to Tom's official duties regarding city council actions towards the homeless.


P.C. 217.1(a) is a wobbler and can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony at the discretion of the prosecutor.

A misdemeanor can result in the following penalties:

  • Summary probation;
  • Up to one year in county jail; and/or
  • A fine of up to one thousand dollars ($1000.)

A felony can result in the following penalties:

  • Formal probation;
  • Sixteen (16) months, two (2) or three (3) years in county jail; and/or
  • A fine of up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000.)


  • Not having the actual ability to inflict a violent injury;
  • Not having the intent to retaliate or to prevent the official from performing his public duties; and
  • Acting in self defense or the defense of another.