Assault of a Police Officer – a Serious Felony Offense in New York

September 25, 2019

By Jill K. Sanders, Esq.

Police officers protect our communities. While doing their job, they can become injured – sometimes because of the actions of those they are trying to arrest. And when a defendant is arrested for assault of an officer, the prosecutor and the court will take such charges very seriously. If you’ve been arrested for assaulting an officer, contact a criminal defense attorney right away.


Assault of a Police Officer Defined

A defendant has committed Assault in the Second Degree if, with intent to prevent a police officer from performing his or her lawful duty, the defendant caused that police officer physical injury. This crime is a class D violent felony. In this case, “physical injury” means an injury that causes a physical impairment or substantial physical pain.

However, if the injury to the police officer is “serious physical injury,” the defendant has committed Assault of a Police Officer. A “serious physical injury” is an injury that creates a substantial risk of death, causes death, causes protracted disfigurement or impairment of health, or causes loss of a bodily organ. This offense is a class C violent felony.

If the defendant used a deadly weapon or dangerous weapon during an assault of a police officer, the charge becomes Aggravated Assault on a Police Officer. For this crime, the injury to the officer does not have to be a serious physical injury. And it is a class B violent felony.


Punishment for Assault of a Police Officer

The following are possible prison sentences associated with assaulting an officer:




Assault in the Second Degree*

2 years

7 years

Assault of a Police Officer

3½ years

15 years

Aggravated Assault of a Police Officer

5 years

25 years

*Alternative sentence – incarceration not mandatory


These sentences can be higher based on a defendant’s criminal history. And jail or prison time is not the only possible penalty convicted individuals will face. Other penalties include:

In addition, a felony conviction can also prevent someone from obtaining certain government benefits, finding housing, or having certain types of employment.


Possible Defenses

One way to challenge the assault charge would be to argue the officer wasn’t injured within the meaning of the law. Both “physical injury” and “serious physical injury” require more than just a slight bump or bruise. By law, a physical injury must cause some impairment or substantial pain. And a serious physical injury must have grave health consequences or create a risk of death.

Further, it may also be a valid defense to argue the officer was not performing his or her legally-sanctioned duty. Or perhaps the circumstances show that the defendant was unaware that the offer was indeed a member of law enforcement. In conclusion, it can also be argued that the officer was using excessive force, and the defendant was entitled to defend him or herself.