Resisting arrest, or otherwise interfering with an officer of the law or EMT, can carry heavy consequences in California. California Penal Code 148 is a broad statute that includes the various ways in which someone could interfere with the lawful duties of peace officers and EMTs within the state.
Resisting arrest, in California, is not confined to simply trying to avoid being arrested or refusing to comply with an officer of the law. It can include any action that prevents or interferes with an officer who is attempting to perform his lawful duty. Understanding how the resisting arrest law works, and how it may apply to you, can help you better understand potential charges that may have been levied against you and your next steps and you move forward.
Resisting Arrest Relies on 3 Key Components
In order to be charged with resisting arrest, your actions must fit these three key categories.
1. The Victim of Your Actions Was a Peace Officer Performing Lawful Duties
In order to be charged with resisting arrest, your actions must occur against someone who:
Is an Officer of Peace
“Peace officers” often include police officers, but may include other government entities who act in those respects. That may include:
- Police officers
- Conservation officers
- Fish and wildlife officers
- Anyone involved in regulatory inspection or investigation
Is Performing Lawful Duties
The “lawful duties” part of this requirement can prove tricky. For example, a police officer who is using excessive force or ignoring the rule of law in an arrest is not performing a lawful duty. If you act to prevent that action, you are not resisting arrest. On the other hand, if the officer is not using excessive force and is respecting the legal rights of the person he is arresting, including you, then you could face charges of resisting arrest.
Furthermore, “resisting arrest” only comes into play when the officer is attending to his lawful duties. Suppose, for example, that you interrupt a police officer purchasing his breakfast at the local service station. Because those actions are not part of his lawful duties, you are not guilty of resisting arrest if you interfere.
2. You Deliberately Obstructed or Delayed the Officer’s Duty
In order to be convicted of resisting arrest, you must deliberately prevent the officer from carrying out his duties or delay the process of carrying out those duties, often to the detriment of others around you.
Suppose, for example, that an officer needs to direct traffic around an accident site. The defendant rushes up to the officer and tries to prevent him from setting up traffic cones that will direct traffic through a parking lot because he feels that it will interfere with his business. The officer is delayed in putting up those traffic cones, which makes it harder for traffic to get back to normal and even prevents the ambulance from responding to the scene of the accident in a timely manner. The defendant, therefore, might be convicted under CA Penal Code 148.
Likewise, when a defendant actively resists arrest, including actions like trying to grab the officer’s weapon or actively fighting against the officer, the defendant may be guilty of resisting arrest.
3. You Knew the Officer’s Status
In some cases, peace officers are not clearly identifiable. A plainclothes police officer, for example, might not wear a clear badge of his position. Likewise, a fish and wildlife officer not in uniform might not be easy to identify, especially at a distance.
To establish that the defendant was resisting arrest, it may be necessary to establish that the defendant knew that they were interfering with a peace officer. For example, suppose a fish and wildlife officer indicates that a group cannot camp in a certain area. The group ignores those instructions, or clears out temporarily and comes back, because they do not realize that they are dealing with an officer and not another camper.
In this example, they did not know about the fish and wildlife officer’s status. Therefore the situation may be a misunderstanding, rather than a deliberate case of resisting arrest or otherwise ignoring the lawful instructions of a peace officer.
Consequences for Resisting Arrest
Under California law, resisting arrest may have serious consequences. A defendant who resists arrest, or interferes with a peace officer carrying out their duties, may face:
- Up to a year in jail
- Court fines
- Community service
- Court-mandated counseling
Furthermore, if you are convicted of resisting arrest, that conviction will go on your record, and future officers will be able to see it prior to any interactions with you. Past instances of resisting arrest could make your future interactions with peace officers more unpleasant or more difficult to manage.
Resisting Arrest Defenses in California
There are several defenses that you can use against resisting arrest charges in California. Working with a lawyer can help you determine the best defense for your specific circumstances. You may try to prove that:
- You acted in self defense, often due to excessive force or violence on the part of an arresting officer
- You did not realize that the person trying to carry out those duties was a peace officer and acted accordingly
- You were falsely accused of trying to resist arrest, often because an officer felt disrespected or ignored
- The officer was, in any way, not acting in a lawful manner, or was placing others in unnecessary danger, including danger of violence or excessive force.
A lawyer can help guide you to the right defense for your specific case and help you protect your rights and freedoms as much as possible.
Contact a California Criminal Defense Attorney As Soon As Possible
If you are facing resisting arrest charges, working with a criminal defense attorney can offer your best chances of successfully navigating those charges. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon after the incident as possible to receive more support in your case.