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Can an arrest in DC lead to an additional assault charge?

What would you do if you were being arrested by a Washington, D.C., police officer? If you were originally trying to resist arrest or even just make it more difficult for the officer to put handcuffs on you, is it possible you could be found guilty of criminal assault, too? Luckily, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals recently ruled that the government must show that an arrestee intends to assault a police officer before he or she can be convicted of an additional simple assault charge.

The recent decision followed a man's conviction for simple assault after he hit an officer during his arrest in 2006. Police accused the man of drug activity and attempted to arrest him in northeast Washington, D.C., but the suspect tried to keep his arms far enough apart that officers would not be able to handcuff him. During the commotion, the man inadvertently hit one of the officers in the abdomen. Both the suspect and the officer who was hit have testified that the suspect didn't intentionally hit the officer, but rather that he was just trying to avoid arrest.

When he was originally tried for the simple assault charge, the trial judge determined that there was sufficient evidence that the man intended to hit the officer and convicted him of the assault charge. The suspect protested his assault conviction and filed an appeal.

According to the Court of Appeals, the trial judge did not explain what evidence showed the suspect's intent. The Court sent the conviction back to the trial judge, instructing him to find the suspect not guilty if the contact only arose as part of the suspect's attempts to hinder his arrest. In other words, there needs to be more evidence that the man intended to assault the officer than his intent to resist arrest.

Source: Legal Times, "Appeals Court Weighs Whether Resisting Arrest Proves Intent to Assault," Dec. 8, 2011

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