Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Police Can Charge You With Murder for Fighting Off a Dog Attack But Can You Sue Them For Killing Yours?

In a not so often discussed dog attack scenario, is when a police dog is used to enable an over zealous law enforcement officer to abuse or exceed the amount of force or harm necessary to subdue a crime suspect. One this people seem to forget, is if an individual fends off a dog attack and it results in the death of the dog, the person defending himself can be charged with murder. So in this case at bar, we have a victim who risks being charged with murder if the victim attempts a defense. This is the law.

 California Law On Fighting Off Police Dogs (Source Here.)

Penal Code 600

(a) Any person who willfully and maliciously and with no legal justification strikes beats, kicks, cuts, stabs, shoots with a firearm, administers any poison or other harmful or stupefying substance to, or throws, hurls, or projects at, or places any rock, object, or other substance which is used in a manner as to be capable of producing injury and likely to produce injury, on or in the path of, any horse being used by, or any dog under the supervision of, any peace officer in the discharge or attempted discharge of his or her duties, is guilty of a public offense. If the injury inflicted is a serious injury, as defined in subdivision (c), the person shall be punished by impreisonment in the state prison for 16 months, two or three years, or in a county jail for not exceeding one year, or by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars ($2000.00), or by both a fine and imprisonment. If the injury inflicted is not a serious injury, the person shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail for not exceeding one year, or by a fine not exceeding one thousand $(1000.00), or by both a fine and imprisonment.

(b) Any person who wilfully and maliciously and with no legal justification interferes with or obstructs any horse or dog being used by any peace officer in the discharge or attempted discharge of his or her duties by frightening, teasing, agitating, harassing, or hindering the horse or dog shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for not exceeding one year, or by a fine not exceeding one thousand ($1000.00), or by both a fine and imprisonment.

(c) Any person who, in violation of this section, and with intent to inflict such injury or death, personally causes the death, destruction, or serious physical injury including bone fracture, loss or impairment of function of any bodily member, wounds requiring extensive suturing, or serious crippling, of any horse or dog, shall, upon conviction of a felony under this section, in addition and consecutive to the punishment prescribed for the felony, be punished by an additional term of imprisonment in the state prison for one year.

(d) Any person who, in violation of this section, and with the intent to inflict such injury, personally causes great bodily injury, as defined in Section 12022.7, to any person not an accomplice, shall upon conviction of a felony under this section, in addition and consecutive to the punishment prescribed for the felony, be punished by an additional term of imprisonment in the state prison for two years unless the conduct described in this subdivision is an element of any other offense of which the person is convicted or receives an enhancement under Section 12002.7.

(e) In any case in which a defendant is convicted of a violation of this section, the defendant shall be ordered to make restitution to the agency owning the animal and employing the peace officer for any veterinary bills, replacement costs of the animal if it is disabled or killed, and the salary of the peace officer for the period of time his or her services are lost to the agency.

Leg.H. 1984 ch. 443. effective July 12, 1984, 1985 chs. 106, 765.

1984 Note: the Legislature inserted a cross-reference to Penal Code Section 12002.7 in subdivision (d) by Stats. 1984 ch. 443. However, the cross-reference is to a section that does not exist.

In the case at bar, the city of Hayward, California is settling a lawsuit for $225,000 of a police dog attack and this will mark the third settlement in under a year for the city. The lawsuit stems from a worker at a kennel being bitten by the police dog in 2011 at the Breton’s School for Dogs and Cats in Danville. According to court records the attack occurred when police officer Vince Celes attempted to put a collar and leash on Nero the police dog, when the dog broke loose and went after one of the employees, Jose Rojas.

 Rojas attempted to go up a fence to get away from the dog, but it bit one leg and then latched on to the other, according to Hayward City Attorney Michael Lawson. The kennel worker was hospitalized after the attack for complications from an infection. According to Lawson, Nero the police canine has been retired and the city of Hayward is no longer using the kennel for the police department dogs. Lawson said that Rojas has returned to work at the kennel after recovering.

The Hayward City Council on January 21st approved a settlement for $225,000 at the meeting. June 18th the City Council approved a $1.5 million dollar settlement in a police dog attack that occurred when police were searching for a robbery suspect in 2011. Officer Loring Cox lifted a police canine, Nicky into the Hayward yard of 89 year-old Jesse Porter, while searching for the robbery suspect at an area restaurant. Porter was bitten on the calf and a few days later developed gangrene, which resulted in his leg being amputated above the knee. According to San Francisco attorney Matthew Davis, who represented the family Porter died approximately two months later in a rehabilitation center. The third lawsuit occurred approximately 11 months earlier and involved the police dog Nicky, during a traffic stop.

Officer Cox let Nicky loose when the traffic stop began escalating and the officers felt threatened, according to Assistant City Attorney Joseph Brick. The traffic stop involved Lawrence Sterling, who was bit on the ankle by the police canine. Officers transported Sterling to St. Rose Hospital for treatment of the dog bite. The city settled with Cox for $25,500, which according to Lawson was less expensive than taking the lawsuit to trial. Nicky the police canine was retired.

In any event, the dog was still a police dog.  This means the worker risked being tried for murder if a defense was attempted. The only real way to stop a rabid dog is to kill it.  In California, the owner of the dog is strictly liable for any harm a dog does.  But it has been argued for years by criminal defense attorneys that police sick their dogs on people they don't like, with the hopes that the victim will harm or kill the dog, and pick up another charge!

So at Ehline Law we think the law should be repealed. After all, an ordinary person cannot even sue for the death of their dog for pain and suffering in California courts (See source), yet the police can charge you with a crime like battery. What do you think? Sound off.

More News Citations: 
http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_25030519/hayward-paying-225-000-settle-police-dog-attack

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Dog on a Leash

Dog on a Leash
Even while on a leash a dog can attack