What You Should Know About Resisting Arrest

6 March 2015
 Categories: , Blog


Resisting arrest is a dangerous idea, and it can have serious consequences for everyone involved. It also infuriates police officers, prosecutors, and judges. In many situations, you may find yourself still facing charges related to the arrest even after the original complaint is dropped. This is what you should know.

What Does It Mean To Resist Arrest?

The laws vary from state to state, but a prosecutor generally has to prove that a defendant willfully resisted, hindered, delayed, or tried to obstruct a police officer (or emergency personnel such as an EMT or firefighter) from making a lawful arrest in a violent fashion (no matter how slight).

It's important to note that while a person generally has a right to resist an unlawful arrest, the laws are complicated and vary greatly. You are better off complying with an officer's orders and letting an attorney later work to have the charges dismissed if the arrest is illegal. 

What Sort Of Activity Will Get You Charged?

Usually, cursing at an officer or questioning the legality of an arrest isn't enough to warrant a charge of resisting arrest (as long as you comply with the officer's demands). However, you could be charged if you:

  • run away or hide
  • throw a punch at the officer
  • struggle while the officer tries to put on the handcuffs
  • kick at the officer
  • go bodily limp when the officer tries to make the arrest
  • threaten the officer
  • try to stop an officer from arresting someone else
  • give a false name to an officer 
  • block an officer's path 

The law is very broad, and people often end up with the additional resisting arrest charge after they act in the heat of the moment. For example, imagine that you're in a shouting match outside of your favorite bar. An officer thinks that you might be drunk, and decides to handcuff you. In frustration, you shove the handcuff aside, without meaning to cause injury or even really resist the arrest. Even though you immediately regret the action and comply with the officer's orders from that point forward, you could still face a charge of resisting arrest (even if all other charges are dropped).

What Defenses Are There Against Resisting Arrest Charges?

Some possible defenses against the charge of resisting arrest include:

  • Self-Defense: if excessive force was used during the arrest, you had a right to defend yourself.
  • Unlawful Arrest: if the officer wasn't acting lawfully, you did nothing wrong.
  • False Accusations: if you were merely rude or hesitant to respond, but didn't actually resist arrest.
  • Accidental Action: if you stumbled against the officer, for example, when he or she went to arrest you. If the action wasn't willful, you weren't resisting arrest.

A lot of the time, it's possible to either get the charges dismissed or work out a plea deal that helps you avoid additional jail time, especially if other charges were dismissed. However, talk to a criminal defense attorney like Alexander & Associates, P.C. right away, so that you can discuss your options.