California can harshly penalize individuals who violate California Penal Code Section 148(a): Resisting Arrest. This charge can apply to many actions involving police officers or emergency medical technicians (EMTs). According to this section, it is illegal to obstruct, delay, or resist law enforcement personnel when they’re performing lawful duties.
If you need to understand your particular situation or are facing a resisting arrest charge, you may want to get professional help right away. The criminal defense attorneys at the Simmrin Law Group will work to protect your rights and reduce or eliminate your charges.
Resisting Arrest in California: The Legal Definition
Individuals can be charged under PC §148(a) if they impede law enforcement officers or EMTs from carrying out a lawful duty. The court system uses a broad definition to cover legal responsibilities. For example, a police officer is carrying out a lawful duty when he or she:
- Questions a witness
- Moves around a crime scene
- Makes an arrest
EMTs may carry out their lawful duty by helping an injured individual. Any person who intentionally interferes with these activities can be charged with resisting arrest.
Proving Elements for a Resisting Arrest Charge
If you or someone you know are facing charges of resisting arrest, the prosecutor must be able to provide proof that the person:
- Wilfully resisted, interfered, obstructed, or delayed a police officer or an EMT
- Interfered or obstructed an officer or EMT who was actively performing their duty
- Knew or should have known that the officer/EMT was actively performing their duty
This means, for instance, that if you were drunk or under the influence of any drug and weren’t able to move, you can NOT be charged with resisting arrest.
Other Misconducts That Can Be Considered Resisting Arrest Under California Law
However, resisting arrest can also be charged even if you did not actively block or resist a police officer. Here are some other ways you can be accused of it:
- Compromise or interfere with an active-duty officer’s travel
- Blocking authorities from interviewing a witness or investigating a crime scene
- Interfere in any way with police officers monitoring a suspect
Also, it is crucial to notice that mall cops and college campus security are not “public officers,” and that the act of interfering has to be willful and intentional.
What Is the Penalty in California for Resisting Arrest?
Resisting arrest is considered a misdemeanor offense by the California Penal Code Section 148(a) and can be charged with up to one year in county jail and a maximum fine of $1,000.
If an individual who resists arrest resorts to battery, the penalties can be much higher. Battery against police officers and other peace officers is prosecuted more harshly than other acts of battery. It can lead to imprisonment and up to $10,000 in fines.
Individuals may also face a ban on firearm ownership and may be forced to attend anger management courses as part of their punishment. Aggravating factors can lead to additional charges or increase the severity of the penalties for resisting arrest.
Resisting Arrest and Related Offenses
It is worth keeping in mind that, while resisting arrest is a less severe charge, it usually comes together with others that can harden a jury’s sentence. Depending on the severity of the interference, individuals could also be charged with:
- Evading an officer
- False identification to a law enforcement officer
- Battery on a police officer
- False report of a crime, fire, or emergency
- Felony reckless evading
It is important to remember that many of those offenses can have severe consequences under California law by themselves and that adding a charge of resisting arrest can only make them worse. However, an experienced lawyer can help you gather evidence that proves a lack of intent or awareness.
If you are not entirely sure about the particulars of your case, you may want to ask an attorney about your options.
Is It Possible to Get My Resisting Arrest Charge Dropped?
Legal defenses can help individuals beat charges for resisting arrest in California. Individuals facing PC 148(a) charges should contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer for help going over their legal options immediately. Depending on the specifics of the case, a lawyer may argue:
You Were Acting in Self-Defense
Individuals in California are allowed to protect themselves and others from unlawful harm. For example, if a police officer was utilizing excessive force, you may be able to claim that you were acting in self-defense when you resisted arrest.
You Were Falsely Accused of Resisting Arrest
Sometimes, people are accused of resisting arrest simply because a police officer does not like their attitude. A lawyer may be able to dig into the officer’s past behavior to see if this is a recurring issue with the law enforcement officer.
Your Perceived Resistance Was Unintentional
Many actions may be seen as intentional resistance when they were involuntary, accidental, or otherwise not done with the intent of obstructing or interfering. In these circumstances, your attorney can gather and present evidence regarding your intent.
Was It Really Resisting Arrest?: Examples
Individuals can be charged with resisting arrest in California for many reasons. The following examples show some actions that violate PC 148(a):
- Person A is pulled over for driving erratically. When asked to get out of the vehicle, they attack the officer.
- Person B has a heart attack, and when the EMTs arrive, Person C (who also lives in the house) tries to block them from assisting Person B. Person C could face charges under PC 148(a).
- The police officers believed that Person D was selling a controlled substance and arrested them while using an excessive amount of force. Person D fights back. This person may be able to avoid charges for resisting arrest.
However, causing interference with an officer’s or EMT’s lawful duties is not always resisting arrest. Accidentally getting in their way, being uncoordinated or unable to follow directions while impaired, or otherwise unintentionally resisting arrest does not meet the criteria to be charged under this penal code section.
Resisting an Unlawful Action
While resisting arrest is considered a misdemeanor, it is not illegal to resist an unlawful action by a police officer who uses excessive force or violence. In addition, you can get resisting arrest charges dropped if you prove you acted in self-defense.
Charging someone with resisting arrest is one of the most common intimidation tactics. It is widely used by questionable police officers when they are caught doing something wrong or feel “disrespected.”
Resisting Arrest and Police Brutality
In recent American history, there have been many cases where “resisting arrest” was misused by police officers. In many of those cases, officers claimed “resisting arrest” when the person was only asking the reasons or defending themselves from what seemed unlawful detention. And not to mention the number of racial profiling cases.
Sadly, “resisting arrest” is widely misused, mainly by questionable police officers who want to cover up their misconduct, excessive use of force, or racial profiling.
However, gathering sufficient evidence to maintain this defense tends to be extremely difficult. An experienced attorney can help gather evidence, advocate for you throughout the legal proceedings, and defend your rights.
I Was Charged With Resisting Arrest in California. Can I Get Help?
There are some challenges in life people have to face alone. Fortunately, you can get help standing up to a charge under California Penal Code §148(a): Resisting Arrest. The Simmrin Law Group has experience defending clients in the Los Angeles area. You can contact us for help with your case by calling us or completing our online contact form.
You can get advice about your situation with a FREE consultation. Start learning more about your rights, the right defense strategy based on the circumstances of the case, and how to proceed. The sooner you speak with an attorney, the sooner you have an advocate in your corner.