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Resisting Arrest Laws, Charges, and Punishments

June 24, 2020 Federal Criminal Attorneys

If you have ever heard of anyone resisting arrest, you assumed it involved an intense physical struggle between a police officer and the suspect. However, that is not always the case. In fact, depending on the state where it took place and the circumstances involved in the incident, the laws, charges, and punishments can vary widely.

Misdemeanor Offenses
If you are charged with resisting arrest, you will most likely be facing a misdemeanor. While not as serious as a felony charge, you could still face such penalties as a prison term of up to three years and a $5,000 fine, both of which are possibilities in Maryland. In addition, some states such as California have laws in place that allow people to be charged with resisting arrest not only when interacting with police officers, but also with emergency medical technicians.

Proving Resisting Arrest Occurred
Though you may think proving resisting arrest is open and shut, it can be anything but that depending on the nature of the incident. To begin with, the burden of proof rests with the prosecution. To prove their case, prosecutors must show a defendant willfully obstructed the officer, acted violently or threatened violence, and that the officer was acting in an official capacity at the time of the arrest. However, even if all this is proven, it does not mean the person is necessarily guilty of other crimes for which they may be charged.

Punishments for Resisting Arrest
If you are convicted of resisting arrest, the court has the authority to levy a variety of punishments against you. For example, if your charges are misdemeanors, you may face one year in jail, a $5,000 fine, and perhaps an informal probation period that could last up to five years. However, if you are in a state that makes resisting arrest a felony, you may be staring at three years in jail, a $10,000 fine, paying restitution, and supervised probation that will require you to report each week to a probation officer.

Sentencing Guidelines
Just as states have different requirements as to what they consider to be resisting arrest, judges also have many different guidelines they can use to determine an appropriate sentence. In many cases, judges will look at whether or not a defendant acted violently prior to being charged with resisting arrest. When not part of the equation, the sentence will generally be lighter.

Statute of Limitations
If your resisting arrest charge is a misdemeanor, authorities have a two-year statute of limitations in which to file such charges against you. Yet for felony resisting arrest charges, more time is often given, and can vary from state to state. Thus, if you suddenly have resisting arrest charges added to existing charges against you, always consult with an experienced attorney at once.

Examples of Resisting Arrest
As stated earlier, there does not have to be an act of physical violence for charges of resisting arrest to be levied against you. For example, if you are peacefully protesting and an officer is forced to drag or carry you while making the arrest, these charges can be brought against you. Also, if you are found to have given an officer false information, you may also be charged with resisting arrest. Yet since your version of events and the officer’s version are likely to differ in many ways, do not sit back and simply allow these additional charges to make an already difficult situation worse. Instead, discuss the incident in question and these related charges in greater detail with your attorney.

Possible Defenses
Though officers and prosecutors will act as though there are no defenses to resisting arrest, that is not the case at all. In fact, you may have many different defenses to these charges. For example, if the officer used excessive force that made you feel as if you needed to defend yourself, you may be able to beat these charges. Also, if your arrest on other charges was unlawful, you may also see resisting arrest charges dropped. Whatever the circumstances of your case, never allow police and prosecutors to have a clear path to conviction. Instead, let your attorney examine the evidence and fight hard on your behalf.

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