Resisting arrest charges are common in Southern California. Individuals find themselves arrested on suspicion of these types of charges in a variety of situations. They may have been making their voices heard in a peaceful protest. They may have been in a sports bar enjoying a drink with friends or at a concert or ball game. These charges may stem from a situation that occurred in the privacy of your own home. If you are facing resisting arrest charges in Southern California, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side who can help you fight these charges and protect your rights.
What is Resisting Arrest?
According to California Penal Code 148 (a) (1), the law prohibits anyone from willfully resisting delaying or obstructing any public officer, peace officer or an emergency medical technician (EMT) in the performance of his or her work duties. It is important to understand that individuals are most commonly charged with resisting arrest not for actually physically resisting an arrest, but most likely, delaying an officer in the performance of his or her duties.
In order to be found guilty of this misdemeanor offense the prosecutor must be able to prove that:
- There was a peace officer, public officer or EMT who was lawfully performing or attempting to perform his or her duties.
- The defendant willfully resisted, obstruction or delayed the officer or EMT in the performance or attempted performance of those duties.
- The defendant knew or should have reasonably known that the officer or EMT was engaged in those duties.
Understanding the Finer Details
It is also important to understand that certain acts don’t constitute or rise to the level of “resisting arrest.” For example, if you are photographing or shooting video of a police officer in a public place, that in itself will not support resisting arrest charges. Photographing or recording an officer alone does not provide sufficient grounds for a person to be charged with resisting arrest. Today, it is common for most people to carry cell phones that are equipped with audio and video recorders. So, we increasingly see ordinary citizens with the ability to record or document police brutality or misconduct. The law makes it clear that exercising this right does not amount to resisting arrest or obstructing an officer.
However, there are certain circumstances where a misdemeanor resisting arrest charges may escalate into a felony (a more serious) charge. California Penal Code 148 PC also makes it a crime of an individual to deliberately interrupt or interfere with communications over a public safety radio frequency or take a gun or some other weapon from an officer while resisting arrest. If you take an officer’s weapon while resisting arrest, you may be looking at a felony charge.
What Are The Penalties?
If you are convicted of misdemeanor resisting arrest charges in California you could be looking at up to one year in county jail, up to $1,000 in fines and/or probation. Even though it is a misdemeanor, a resisting arrest charge could go on your permanent record and could have an impact on you becoming gainfully employed, pursuing higher education or running for public office. Convicting on a felony charge could, of course, come with increased penalties including jail or prison time.
Legal Defenses to Resisting Arrest Charges
There are a number of legal defenses to these charges and are some of those defenses. You cannot be convicted of resisting arrest if:
- Your arrest was unlawful. Types of unlawful behavior that police officers commonly engage in including arresting someone without a probable cause or an arrest warrant; entering someone’s home without a search warrant or permission to do so; racial profiling; or using unreasonable force. When an officer you are accused of resisting is suspected of police misconduct or excessive force, your defense lawyer may be able to file what is known as a “Pitchess Motion,” which is a request for information contained in the arresting officer’s file.
- You acted in self-defense. If you resist an officer who is using excessive force against you, you are entitled to exercise your right to self-defense. You may be able to use this legal defense as long as you did not use more force than was reasonably necessary to protect yourself.
- You are facing false allegations. This happens more often than we hear about. Police might make false allegations simply if they are angry or seek revenge. There have been cases where police abuse their authority or power. There are several pieces of evidence from eyewitness accounts and tape recordings that can help expose false allegations.
What to Do If You Are Arrested
If you are arrested on suspicion of resisting arrest, the first thing to do is to remain calm and not panic, even if your experience may cause you much distress. Use your right to remain silent. Identify yourself to the arresting officer and continue to remain courteous. But, do not provide any further information or details unless you have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Remember, saying something to an officer can be dangerous because they can use what you say against you.
It is important that you get a copy of your police report as soon as possible. This report will contain important information including the officer’s version of events. You can get a copy of the police report by contacting the police department. If the incident occurred in a public place, check to see if anyone recorded audio or video of the incident. Secure any contact information for individuals who may have witnessed the incident and can corroborate your account. Write a detailed account of what happened from your perspective. Include all possible details. If your local police department has officers wear body cameras or if the cruisers are equipped with recording equipment, it is important that you move quickly to preserve such crucial evidence that could help get your charges dismissed. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help gather such critical pieces of evidence that are required to defend your resisting arrest charges and also help ensure that your legal rights are protected at every step.
Contacting an Experienced Lawyer
If you have been charged with resisting arrest in Southern California, call the experienced criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Randy Collins. We offer free, no-obligation consultations to anyone facing criminal charges in Southern California. Call us at (888) 250-2865 to find out how we can help you.