When someone thinks of the term “resisting arrest” they may visualize a person physically flailing their body around to avoid being handcuffed. We commonly get these images from various crime TV shows and films. It could be very easy to assume someone kicking and screaming during an arrest is indeed “resisting”. But, what other behaviors fall into this category as well? What exactly do you have to do to be charged with resisting arrest? Turns out this term is much broader and includes a wide variety of both nonverbal and verbal behaviors. In this article we examine the term resisting arrest and what do to if you’re facing charges for resisting arrest.
How is ‘Resisting Arrest’ Defined?
While every state has its own unique guidelines and penalties for resisting arrest, there is a general definition that can be used here. Basically, resisting arrest is when:
- An individual knowingly and intentionally stops an officer from making an arrest
- The individual creates a dangerous situation for an officer by using physical violence during an arrest attempt
- An individual behaves in a way that justifies an officer’s use of force in a reaction to the resistance
It’s important to understand that you can be facing charges for resisting arrest without facing any other charges. This means that even if an arrest is unwarranted or illegal, you can still be charged with resisting arrest. Even if the officer had no probable cause for the initial decision to arrest you in the first place, you might still be facing charges for resisting arrest. This is why most law enforcement officials and legal experts will advise people to never, under any circumstances, resist an arrest, even if you believe it is unlawful.
Examples of Resisting Arrest Behavior
Now that you understand that resisting arrest is when “an individual knowingly and intentionally stops an officer from making an arrest,” what exactly qualifies as “knowingly and intentionally” stopping an officer? Do you have to be physically struggling with an officer to be charged with resisting arrest? The quick answer to that question is ‘definitely not’. While it’s quite common to see individuals using physical force to resist an arrest, you don’t actually have to do anything at all to be charged with resisting arrest. For instance, going limp also falls under the category of resisting arrest. You can make it very difficult for an officer to arrest you if you refuse to move at all.
In addition, not saying anything or not responding to an officer’s questions can put you in a position to be facing charges for resisting arrest. If you do respond to an officer, but you provide false information in order to avoid an arrest, you can also be charged with resisting arrest. Overall, it’s important to remember that it’s always in an individual’s best interest to avoid any behavior that could be considered uncooperative or obstructive when being questioned by a police officer.
Is Resisting Arrest a Misdemeanor or a Felony?
The first question that most people will have after being charged with resisting arrest is if this crime is labeled as a misdemeanor or a felony. That will depend on the situation. In most jurisdictions, resisting arrest is considered a misdemeanor. However, in some cases, it can result in a felony charge if there was an extreme amount of violence involved. For instance, if the officer or any innocent bystanders were injured during the incident, you may face felony charges. In addition, a defendant might face felony charges for resisting arrest if he or she has multiple charges of resisting arrest on their record.
Misdemeanor Penalties and Punishments:
- Up to one year of jail time
- Depending on state laws, you could face fines as low as $200 or as high as $4,000
- A probationary period
Felony Penalties and Punishments:
- Possible jail time ranging from 1 year to 10 years, depending on the state and severity
- Fines ranging between $500-$10,00. Of course, if anyone was injured during the arrest, it could result in much higher fines
- Probation with weekly or monthly check-ins
What to Do If You’re Facing Charges for Resisting Arrest?
It’s incredibly important to have an experienced criminal defense lawyer representing you if you’re facing charges for resisting arrest. There are a number of common defense strategies that your lawyer can use to relieve you of these charges. For instance, if the officer used excessive force and you were resisting out of self-defense, your lawyer can argue that your arrest was unjust. Of course, if the arrest was unlawful, to begin with, your lawyer can help to reduce these charges. Remember that resisting arrest charges are often vague and small details in the case matter. But, regardless of the circumstances in your case, you’ll need proper legal expertise. Contact a criminal defense lawyer today to learn more about your options.