Resisting Arrest Definition
Resisting arrest is overused and incorrectly used by police officers. Sometimes resisting arrest is used when a suspect is slow to respond to a police officer’s commands. In this article, we will examine how the law defines resisting arrest and what your rights are.
How Does The Law Define Resisting Arrest?
If a suspect intentionally prevents a police officer from discharging an official duty or making a lawful arrest, then they are resisting arrest. The following elements must be present:
- The suspect acts in a way that justifies use of force from the police officer
- The suspect poses a substantial risk of bodily harm to the police officer or others.
In some states, any action that impedes a police officer in their duties is prohibited by law, and you can receive a resisting arrest charge without an arrest occurring. Other states require there to be an arrest in progress for a resisting arrest charge to be filed. The prosecution has the burden of proof to determine the following elements in a resisting arrest charge:
- Show that the defendant was intentionally resisting arrest
- Prove that the defendant knew that they were resisting a law enforcement officer
- Show that the police officer was lawfully performing their duties at the time
What Actions Are Commonly Seen As Resisting Arrest?
The following actions are often seen by the courts as resisting arrest:
- Obstructing law enforcement
- Delays police officers in performing their duties
- Standing in the way of a police officer
- Struggling against or attacking a police officer who is trying to arrest you
- Forcing a police officer to drag you or carry you when making an arrest
- Giving fake personal information or names to the police officer
What Are the Penalties For Resisting Arrest?
Depending on the circumstances of the case, you may be charged with a felony or misdemeanor for resisting arrest.
Resisting arrest misdemeanor penalties
- Up to a year jail time
- Informal probation for 3-5 years where you cannot resist arrest again
- Up to $4,000 in fines
Resisting arrest felony penalties
- Up to 3 years jail time or up to 10 years in Louisiana
- Formal probation with regular reporting
- Up to £10,000 in fines plus any damages to the injured party
Resisting Arrest Defenses
Resisting arrest cases are hotly contested as often police officers will react strongly against those not immediately following orders. There are a number of defenses you can use, including:
- Unlawful arrest – In some states, if the arrest is unlawful, then any charges that you gained while being arrested will not stick.
- Lack of harm – Some states require harm or threat of harm for a resisting arrest charge. For example, if you just yelled at the police or were a little slow to respond, you cannot be charged with resisting arrest in some states.
- Self-Defense or Excessive Force – If the police officer was using excessive force considering the circumstances, you could argue self-defense. The judge will use their discretion to determine the merits of this resisting arrest defense.
- Factual error – This is often not a strong defense unless you have evidence to back it up, but you can claim that the facts in the police report differ from reality. If someone filmed the incident in question, then this may be a strong defense to a resisting arrest charge.