Assaulting an Authority

Table of Contents

The Offence of Assaulting an Authority

Lawyers for the crime of assault on authority

Assaulting an authority involves attacking or putting up serious resistance, with serious intimidation or violence, to the authority, its agents, or public officials. It will also be considered an offense of assault when it is assailed against them or teaching or health officials while they are in the exercise of their duties or on occasion thereof.

To understand this offense, it is necessary to analyze what case law understands by aggression, authority, public official, serious intimidation, assault, and active severe resistance. In the following, we will examine each of these terms.

  • Assault means any physical attack on the victim, whether or not it results in injury. If there are injuries due to the attack, the penalties for the injuries caused will be added to the offense of assault.

  • Serious active resistance occurs when an order is not complied with, exercising force against the authority or public official.

  • The authority is the person who exercises his own jurisdiction alone or as part of a corporation, court, or body.

  • public official is involved in public functions, whether by the immediate provision of law, by election, or by appointment by the competent authority.

  • Severe bullying is when bricks and empty bottles are thrown, a chair is raised to be thrown or hit, and threats are made by word or by using firearms.

  • Assail is any act of physical violence, whether or not it has consequences, e.g., firing a firearm, pushing, punching, slapping, throwing stones, biting, or throwing glasses, chairs, and bottles at the police.

As indicated by case law, this offense does not require injury to the victim; it is sufficient that the action, or attack, is aimed at attacking the authority, agents, or public officials, even if it is not consummated. It may consist of the mere act of initiating the attack or a movement revealing the aggressive intent.

Objective and subjective elements of the offense of attack on authority

Case law has indicated in numerous judgments (e.g., STS 1734/2023, STS 328/2014) the elements that must be present for a crime of attack against the authority to be committed:

  • That the victim is an authority, an agent of the same, or a public official, as these concepts are defined in Art. 24 of the Criminal Code.

  • The victim must be in the exercise of the functions of the position he or she holds or on the occasion of such functions, i.e., the act must have been motivated by a previous action in the exercise of such functions.

  • A typical act consists of assault, use of force, serious intimidation, or active resistance, which is also severe.

Among the subjective elements, the following must be present:

  • Knowledge of the quality and activity of the victim, regardless of the use of the uniform at the moment the authority is exercised, given that the uniform only allows the immediate recognition of the agent, and such knowledge can be obtained in other ways.

  • The intention to offend, denigrate, or disregard the principle of authority. The wilful misconduct presupposes knowledge of the unlawful significance of the action and knowledge of the result of the action.

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The offence of attack on authority in the Criminal Code

The offense of attacking an authority is typified in articles 550 to 554 of the Penal Code.

  • Article 550 PC. Attempt against authority.
  • Article 551 PC. Aggravating factors in the offense of attack on authority.
  • Article 552 PC. Provocation, conspiracy, and proposition to commit the offense of attack.
  • Article 554 CC. Attack on armed force. This law protects other officials and persons.

This is a crime against public order, and the protected legal right is the dignity and integrity of the authority, as well as the correct functioning of public services and functions.

Penalties for the offense of attack on authority

Attacking an authority is punishable by imprisonment of one to four years, a fine of three to six months if the attack is against an authority, and imprisonment of six months to three years in other cases.

The punishment is increased to imprisonment of one to six years and a fine of six to twelve months if the authority attacked is a member of the Government, the Governing Councils of the Autonomous Communities, the Congress of Deputies, the Senate or the Legislative Assemblies of the Autonomous Communities, local Corporations, the General Council of the Judiciary, a Magistrate of the Constitutional Court, a judge, magistrate or member of the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

If you need professional advice on a crime of assault against authority, our Criminal Lawyers in Barcelona will advise you on the steps and procedures to be carried out at all times.

Aggravating factors in the offense of attacking an authority

The penalties shall be imposed in their upper half when the attack is committed:

  • Making use of weapons or other dangerous objects.

  • When the act of violence carried out is potentially dangerous for the lives of persons or may cause serious injury. In particular, this includes the throwing of blunt objects or flammable liquids, arson, and the use of explosives.

  • Attacking an authority, its agent, or a public official using a motor vehicle.

  • When the acts are carried out on the occasion of a riot or collective incident inside a penitentiary center.

Provocation, conspiracy, and proposition of the offense.

Provocation, conspiracy, and proposition to commit any of the offenses provided for in the previous articles shall be punishable by a penalty one or two degrees lower than that of the corresponding offense.

Other officials and persons protected by this law.

The same penalties shall be imposed on those who attack, use violence, or intimidate the following:

  • A member of the Armed Forces who, in uniform, is carrying out a service legally entrusted to him/her.

  • Persons come to the authorities’ assistance, their agents, or civil servants.

  • Firefighters or members of health personnel or rescue teams who are intervening in the event of a disaster, public calamity, or emergency, intending to prevent them from carrying out their duties.

  • Private security personnel, duly identified, carry out personal security activities in cooperation with and under the command of the Security Forces and Corps.

The difference between attacking and resisting an authority

Resistance to authority to constitute a crime of attack requires active conduct of confrontation and the use of force, with serious intimidation or violence.

The criminal offenses of attack, resistance, and misdemeanor against an officer of the authority are graded according to the following scale, as indicated by case law:

a) Article 550 PC. Attempt against the authority—serious active resistance (understood as carried out with severe intimidation or violence).

b) Article 556 PC. Resistance to authority. Serious passive resistance and non-serious or simple active resistance.

Although the resistance of art. 556 CP is passive; some manifestation of violence or intimidation may coincide with a moderate tone and somewhat defensive and neutralizing characteristics, for example, in the case of the subject’s struggle with the agents of authority.

c) Mild passive resistance. Non-serious (or minor) passive resistance against authority is a petty offense of resistance. This offense has been decriminalized, and LO 4/2015 of 30.3 on the Protection of Public Safety may be applicable.

Offence of minor injuries

The offense of minor injuries is regulated by Article 147 of the Penal Code and is often attributed to the offense of assault and battery. It punishes those who, by any means or procedure, cause injury to another person that threatens their bodily integrity or their physical or mental health. It carries a penalty of one to three months’ fine.

A typical conduct of the attack on authority consists of causing minor injuries to the authority or public officials when they are exercising their duties or on the occasion. Therefore, the penalties for this offense are added to the offense of assault.