Resisting an officer is any attempt to obstruct a lawful arrest, seizure of property, or any other lawful action that is being taken by an individual acting in an official capacity. In order to be charged with the crime of resisting an officer, an individual must understand that the officer is acting in an official capacity and must have taken steps to prevent the action. Resisting officer is sometimes called obstruction of justice.
Resisting Officer without Violence
Giving an officer false information pertaining to a crime or ongoing investigation is an example of non-violent resistance of an officer. Other examples include refusal to accept a citation, questioning an officer’s authority, or attempting to involve others in preventing an arrest or other lawful action. Non-violent resistance typically warrants a less severe charge and penalty than violent resistance.
Non-Violent Resist Charges
Resisting an officer without violence is typically a misdemeanor. The penalties may vary based on the details of the incident. A charge of resisting officer without violence may be dismissed if it is determined that the arrest was unlawful.
Resisting Officer with Violence
A charge of resisting officer with violence must include all of the elements of non-violent resistance with the addition of a threat or violent action against the officer. Prosecution must prove that the defendant knew that the official was an officer of the law, knew that the officer was acting in official capacity, and that the resistance or obstruction was willful. If any of these elements are absent, the charge may change or be dismissed.
Violent Resist Charges
Violent resistance of an officer is a felony. If charged, defendants may face prison time, probation time, and high fines. If the defendant actually attempts to harm or injure the officer, the charge may be increased to battery on an officer. Unlike non-violent resist charges, the charge will not be dismissed if the initial arrest is found to be unlawful.
Consequences of Resisting Officer
If a defendant is charged with resisting an officer, it can be highly detrimental to the defendant’s future. A criminal charge can affect employment and personal relationships, which can cause stress and lower quality of life. Having a felony on an individual’s criminal record also negates certain rights. It is very important to contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to form a defense against resisting officer charges.
Resisting Officer Defenses
Defenses against resisting officer charges may include self defense, proving that the officer was not acting in an official capacity, and testifying that the defendant was unaware that the officer was a law enforcement officer. If violence was used during the altercation, it becomes less likely that charges will be completely dismissed, and may be more difficult to form an effective defense. Any evidence or testimony that can back up defense claims will be helpful.
Using force against an officer that is trying to make an arrest is illegal, regardless of whether the arrest is found to be lawful. However, citizens have the right to use reasonable force to defend against an officer that is illegally attempting to enter a home, frisk a person, or detain a person. These unlawful actions may be difficult to prove, however. If an officer uses excessive force or threatens to use excessive force, an individual has the right to use reasonable force to defend against these actions. A defendant should have pictures taken as soon as possible of any evidence of excessive force in order to help prove this defense.
Official Capacity Unknown
If a law officer is not dressed conspicuously or if the defendant can prove that there was reason to doubt the officer’s authenticity, charges may be dismissed or lessened. This may occur in the case of an officer that is off-duty but performing official duties such as making an arrest or stopping violence. If violence is committed against the officer, it may be considered battery as opposed to violently resisting an officer.
“Resisting Arrest with violence.” Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Florida Department of Law Enforcement, 27 Sept. 2007. Web. 27 May 2014.
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“Statutes & Constitution: View Statutes: Online Sunshine.” Statutes & Constitution: View Statutes: Online Sunshine. The Florida Legislature, 24 May 2014. Web. 27 May 2014.
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