Resisting arrest occurs when a person interferes with law enforcement's attempt to perform a lawful arrest. Some states call this crime obstruction. Resisting arrest is usually defined as the use of any amount of physical force to prevent a police officer from arresting, handcuffing, and/or taking you to jail. Even a small amount of force can be enough.
Resisting arrest is a misdemeanor. So, in addition to any charges already being brought against you, if you resist arrest another charge can be brought adding more fines and possible jail time.
Can I Ever Resist Arrest?
The answer to this question varies from state to state. In most places, you are no longer allowed to resist arrest, even if it is an unlawful arrest. The best advice is to go peacefully with the police. If you feel that you are the victim of a false arrest or any other form of police misconduct, go with the police and then get a lawyer and file a complaint.
What If the Police Are Using Excessive Force, Can I Resist Arrest Then?
The traditional rule is that you are allowed to defend yourself if an officer uses excessive force against you. But this may not be the best idea. Rather, it may upset the officer(s) even more, causing them to use even more force. Also, if you use force in defending yourself it could be seen as resisting arrest. The best advice is to not do anything to upset the officer and never use physical force against an officer.
What Happens If I Use Physical Force against a Police Officer?
If you attempt to resist arrest and use physical force, the charge of resisting arrest can escalate into assaulting an officer. Assaulting an officer is a felony. Because resisting arrest often involves some physical struggle with an officer, there is a high probability that your misdemeanor resisting arrest charge can turn into felony assaulting an officer.
How Does the Prosecution Prove a Resisting Arrest Charge?
In order to convict someone of a resisting arrest charge, the prosecution must provide evidence of the following and the jury must decide that the prosecutor has proved every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. While these elements vary from state to state, usually all must be true:
- The defendant intentionally resisted a police officer
- The defendant acted violently or threatened the officer
- The police officer was lawfully discharging his official duties and properly conducting official duties
The amount of resist that the prosecutor must prove must be sufficient to some type of physical violence or force by the defendant at the time of arrest that interfered or obstructed the police officer to not be able to carry out his official duties.
What Are the Defenses to a Resisting Arrest Charge?
Defendants that are charged with an resisting arrest may offer one or more of the following defenses. The requirements to prove these defenses vary from state to state.
- Self-Defense: The defendant can claim that the police officer was acted violently and the force that was used was excessive and the defendant was defending himself or herself from the excessive force being used.
- Unlawful Arrest: The defendant can claim that the original arrest was unlawful and the arrest was not authorized by law.
What Should I Do If I Am Arrested? Will I Need a Lawyer?
The best advice is to go peacefully with the officer(s) and say that you wish to remain silent and would like an attorney. Remain silent until you get a criminal defense attorney. Do not attempt to resist and never use force against a police officer. If you feel that you are the victim of police misconduct, consult an attorney and file a complaint. Anytime you are arrested, you should consult a criminal defense attorney who can advise you of your rights and defenses and help you with the complicated legal system.