DUI, Hit and Run, and Assault on Officer All on Golf Course at U.S. Open

I am sure that many people have heard incidents of recreational golfers sometimes having a few too many drinks while hitting 18 holes, and some of those incidents have resulted in DUI charges because the person drove the golf cart while under the influence. However, a U.S. Open fan recently topped it all. When a police officer instructed the fan who was driving a golf cart to stop, the man tried to get away but struck the officer in the process. After hitting the officer, the man sped on. Not surprisingly, the man was stopped, arrested, and ultimately charged with Driving Under the Influence, Hit-and-Run, and Assault on a Police Officer.

I initially wondered how the man would have responded to his wife’s questions about attending the U.S. Open. Then I realized that the man probably never made it home. Instead, the man was probably taken before a judge for an arraignment, and based upon the severity of the charges, the judge probably set a relatively high monetary bail. This means that the man would have to post collateral in order to avoid being sent to jail during the initial phases of the case. Most people do not have enough cash with them to be able to post bail, so they must call a family member or friend for help. In this case, instead of going home to his wife, he may have been stuck calling her from the prison and begging her to bail him out. I would not have wanted to be in his shoes when he got home IF his wife posted the bond.

Pennsylvania Assault on Police Officer is a Felony

If this had occurred in Pennsylvania, the drunk driving and hit-and-run charges would be the least of the man’s worries as both charges are misdemeanor offenses. The most severe would be the assault on the officer. The severity of an assault charge is often based upon the severity of the injury inflicted. A felony charge of Aggravated Assault generally requires proof that the aggressor either caused or intended to cause a “serious bodily injury” whereas a misdemeanor charge of Simple Assault only requires proof of a “bodily injury.”

However, Pennsylvania law increases the punishment for assaults that are committed against a particular list of persons, a “protected class.” The protected class includes school employees, firemen, EMTs, judges, prosecutors, public defenders, and police officers. It should be emphasized that noticeably absent from this list is a private criminal defense lawyer. I highly recommend that you contact your local Pennsylvania representative to have this oversight remedied.

Because this man caused a bodily injury to a police officer, even though it was a relatively minor injury, the man would be charged with Aggravated Assault under 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2702(a)(3) because the officer is included in the protected class. The charge is a second degree felony, which means the man would face a maximum sentence of 10 years incarceration and a $25,000.00 fine.

Plea Negotiations

If this case had occurred in Centre County, I believe that a plea agreement could possibly be reached that would allow for the dismissal of the felony Aggravated Assault charge in exchange for a guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of Simple Assault. The officer does not appear to have suffered much of an injury, and it also does not appear that the man drove at the officer and intentionally tried to injure him. Since I have been a State College defense attorney since 2004, I have dealt with many different police officers over the years, and most understand that drunk people make stupid decisions and the officers are therefore willing to cut them some slack. An officer may want the person to be punished, but the officer may agree that a felony conviction on the man’s record would be too severe based upon the facts and circumstances of the case. Here, I could see a prosecutor requiring the man to plead guilty to the DUI offense and a misdemeanor assault charge with a dismissal of the felony offense.