How False Resisting Arrest Accusations Occur
Resisting arrest is a charge that can stand alone (even if the defendant was innocent of the crime they were being arrested for) or be tacked onto other charges pursued by the prosecutor. False accusations occur when:
- Defendants legitimately question the officers’ right to detain them or demand information,
- Officers are offended by behavior that does not meet the standard of resisting arrest, or
- Officers’ expectations of compliant or threatening behavior are influenced by gender and/or race of the defendant.
- Officers attempt to justify an illegal arrest or use of force.
Resisting Arrest is a Blanket Term
California Penal Code 148(a) outlines a wide array of activities that can be charged under the terms resisting arrest. They range in severity and consequences. Activities covered under this code are separate from assaulting a police officer. Assaulting a police officer includes any application of physical force — striking, spitting, throwing an object at an officer. Resisting arrest is obstruction or delay such as
- Making verbal threats
- Giving false information, such as a false name
- Interfering in the arrest of someone else
- Interviewing suspects or witnesses at the scene
- Driving to the scene of an arrest
- Jeering or taunting police officer in the course of their duty
- Interrupting police and public safety radio transmissions
These are misdemeanor offenses with fines up to $1,000 and one year in jail. An attempt to take an officer’s weapon, such as a nightstick, doubles the sentencing limits. An attempt to take an officer’s firearm can be charged as a felony. With the advent of cell phone and social media code 148(a) has been amended to clarify that taking a recording of an arrest is not resisting. If you are on public property and you are not threatening officers, you are able to record and broadcast officers in the process of an arrest.
Misunderstanding Police Instructions
Police instructions can be contradictory and confusing, especially in an emotionally charged event. A police officer may tell you to “keep your hands where I can see them,” and “show me your ID,” that’s in your wallet, pocket, or purse. It is impossible to do both. No matter which orders you follow, you could be charged with resistance.
Wrongful Arrest or Use of Force by the Police
You might ask, in the above scenario am I required to give the police my ID? Unless the police have probable cause, you do not have to provide ID, submit to a search, or speak to the police. However, not immediately complying with the police officers’ demands, even illegitimate ones, often results in a false resisting arrest charge. These are often referred to as “bruised ego” charges. The officer was offended that you did not respect their authority. More seriously, officers frequently use resisting arrest charges to cover up their own use of excessive force.
Recent publicity about police violence and corruption have made this issue more evident but as far back as 1970 the courts established defendants have a right of self-defense when they are in danger of physical harm, including from police officers. In Mulvihill v. State an officer stopped a group of young men on the sidewalk who he believed were pouring alcohol into paper cups. When one of the young men threw out the cup before he approached the officer and refused to answer questions the officer grabbed him, shook him, and struck him with his gun.
They ended on the ground with the officer attempting to point his gun at the defendant and saying, “I will shoot you.” The defendant grabbed the officer’s hand to push it away. The defendant was charged with resisting arrest, but the Supreme Court of New Jersey found that he had a right to defend himself from bodily harm by the police officer.
False Charges of Resisting Arrest Are Common and You Can Defend Against Them
You don’t want a criminal record or media attention based on false charges. Call Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP (213) 688-0460. We have years of experience in high profile cases as well as local knowledge courts, prosecutors, and police.