Facing resisting arrest charges can have wide-ranging implications. Whether or not a criminal charge or conviction will affect your livelihood, a relatively simple background check by either a landlord, employer, license, or anyone wanting to look you up will have some unwanted notions of what that says about you. Therefore, it’s important to analyze the complexity of a resisting arrest charge and the many dimensions it can take on in someone’s case.

Resisting Arrest Laws

The law is deceptively simple. But don’t be fooled into thinking it’s clear-cut. The law explains resisting arrested under Penal Code Section 148. The code breaks down the elements (or ingredients) of the offense.

  1. You resisted/delayed/obstructed an officer;
  2. The resistance was willful;
  3. The resistance was against an officer lawfully trying to perform their duty;
  4. When you resisted, you were aware the other person was an officer.

How Do You Know If You Are Resisting Arrest?

Most clients are shocked that they pick up a resisting arrest charge because they don’t recall doing anything that would qualify for resistance. But a closer look at the first element brings some light on the situation. (Did you know there’s a reduced charge for resisting arrest without violence?)

Resisting, Delaying, or Obstructing

Countless examples can be used to define these three words. Starting with the most obvious, resistance is most often used to portray physical resistance. When an officer attempts to handcuff or subdue another person, any amount of physical force that prevents them from that “performance” will qualify as resisting. However, the law allows a reasonable amount of force to counterbalance against an officer who is not lawfully performing their duty. This situation is a bit of a catch-22. It doesn’t take much of an imagination to figure out what will most likely happen when you attempt to invoke your rights against arrest. For those of you who aren’t catching on: more force is on its way. Officers are trained to counter a person’s resistance (whether it’s lawful resistance or unlawful resistance). Delaying can come in many forms as well. If an officer is trying to investigate a crime, they most likely will have to move around and get to people to try to get some answers. But if you are willfully doing things to prevent them from searching or getting to witnesses, that can be considered unlawful resistance. “Going limp” under certain circumstances fulfills this element. However, in other cases it does not. Finally, obstruction can be satisfied where an officer’s duties are somehow thwarted with someone’s willful acts. If a witness is being questioned and a person purposely yells at the witness or diverts the officer’s attention, it can be argued that he or she is obstructing the investigation. Providing false information, false identities, and misleading police during a critical stage of a crime scene also may qualify for resistance charges.

How To Fight Resisting Arrest Charges

Defending a resisting arrest charge does not end with only understanding the law; one has to become familiar with police practices, criminal investigations, appropriate and inappropriate arresting procedures, training policies, use of force investigations, and a whole slew of practices that ordinary civilians are not privy to when it comes to the complexities of police work.

The Psychology of Our Rights

Additionally, a strong understanding of human psychology is necessary to defend against resisting arrest charges. The reasons for this are limitless. Most ordinary people believe that when an officer is present on the scene, which anyone who is not an officer must abide by every directive that comes from law enforcement. The logic behind this is simple: we are all taught from an early age to respect and submit to authority. However, our Constitutional rights to Free Speech, Freedom of Assembly, and individual rights to protest government intrusions or behaviors do not disappear once police are on the scene. In fact, the true strength of our individual freedoms are put to the test in these exchanges because we learn very quickly how much freedom we have when the emotions run high. If the case were to wind up in front of a jury, your attorney will want to know just how much of your case is relevant to this issue of freedom.

Who Started the War?

What is the true value of one’s case? As with anything in life, some people just choose to be difficult when they are in a bad mood. This happens in the workplace and in the household. It’s no different when discussing police contacts. Politeness and courtesy go a long way (for both civilians and officers). But notice that all it takes is the prickly demeanor of a sour apple and all of the sudden people dig in there respective heals. When that happens, a psychological power struggle begins. For civilians, an edgy and aggressive position against law enforcement will appear unreasonable unless it’s backed up with good reason. Similarly, an overly aggressive or authoritative presence of an officer will upset most people if such behavior is unwarranted. Therefore, a careful appreciation for the delicacy of life is more than apparent when evaluating the value of a resisting arrest charge.