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What are the Resisting Arrest Laws and Defenses?

Posted by Sam Israels | Sep 20, 2021

Review of California's Resisting Arrest Laws and Best Legal Defenses

California Penal Code 148(a) PC describes the crime of resisting or obstructing a police officer who is performing their lawful duty, which is known as “resisting arrest.”

The statute also includes emergency medical professionals in the statutory language.

Resisting Arrest Laws in California - Penal Code 148(a) PC

When most people hear the phrase “resisting arrest,” they frequently believe there must have been a physical confrontation with police who were attempting to place handcuffs on a suspect.

However, Penal Code 148 is a substantially broader category that contains language describing other types of behavior that can lead to someone being charged with resisting arrest.

For example, PC 148 defines as criminal any conduct which:

  • resists, delays, or
  • obstructs a police officer, or emergency medical professionals,
  • who are in the performance of their lawful duties.

So, you can see how the provisions of PC 148 don't only include physical interactions with police officers who are attempting to arrest someone.

To give readers a better understanding of California's resisting arrest laws, our Los Angles criminal defense attorneys are providing an overview below.

What Must a Prosecutor Prove for a Conviction?

A prosecutor will have to prove all the important factors in order to secure a conviction against you. These are called the "elements of the crime" and include:

  • you willfully resisted or obstructed a police officer;
  • the police officer was engaging in their official duties;
  • you knew, or should have, the officer was performing their duty.

“Willfully” means that your act was on purpose and not some type of accident.

Example of resisting arrest

Image someone who is pulled over on a traffic stop for a suspected DUI. The driver jumps out of their car and flees the scene on foot. Police give chase and catch him, where he offers no physical resistance while being handcuffed.

While he did not fight with police, he still violated Penal Code 148 PC resisting arrest because he delayed and obstructed their ability to investigate a suspected DUI and make an arrest.

Penalties for Resisting Arrest in California

If you are convicted of violating Penal Code 148 PC, you are guilty of a misdemeanor crime punishable by:

  • a maximum of one year in county jail,
  • a $1,000 fine plus penalties, or both jail and a fine,
  • summary probation.

In many PC 148 resisting arrest cases, you could be granted summary or informal probation rather than jail time.   

Seeking an expungement

If you complete all the terms and conditions of probation and not arrested for another crime during this period, which is typically up to three years, you can ask the court to dismiss the case under California Penal Code 1203.4 expungement law.

Related California Crimes for PC 248 Resisting Arrest

Penal Code 69 PC – resist executive officer,

Penal Code 148.5 PC – false report of a crime,

Penal Code 217.1(a) PC – assault on a public official,

Penal Code 243(b) PC – battery on a police officer,

Vehicle Code 2800.1 VC – evading police,

Vehicle Code 2800.2 VC – felony reckless evading,

What are the Best Legal Defenses?

If you were accused of violating Penal Code 148 resisting arrest laws, our skilled criminal lawyers can use a variety of defenses for best possible outcome:

  • not a willful act,
  • arrest was unlawful,
  • self-defense or defense of other person,
  • officer was not performing their lawful duty,
  • no probable cause.

A common argument against resisting arrest allegations is that it was not a willful act.

Recall from the elements of the crime the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that your behavior obstructed a police officer.

Best Defenses for California Resisting Arrest Charges

This means inadvertent contact with a police officer would not qualify under this statute.

However, it should be noted that if you willfully commit an act for another purpose other than resisting arrest that resulted in obstruction of their lawful duty, it would be sufficient to support a charge under PC 148.

Resisting arrest charges are most often filed in connection to other offenses.

In fact, PC 148 resisting is usually an added charge that can be difficult to get dismissed because it might expose the police department to allegations of excessive force.

Most California criminal court consider resisting arrest a serious offense in spite of the fact it's a misdemeanor crime.

Criminal Defense for Resisting Arrest Cases

If you were arrested and charged with resisting arrest defined under Penal Code 148 PC, call our skilled teams of defense lawyers to review the details of the case.

We may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to have the charges reduced or even dismissed.

Further, it might also be possible to persuade the prosecutor from filing formal charges in the first place through prefiling intervention.

Cron, Israels & Stark is a top-ranked criminal law firm with a team of highly experienced attorney that represent clients throughout Southern California.

We are located at 11755 Wilshire Blvd, 15th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90025 and 401 Wilshire Blvd #1200, Santa Monica, CA 90401.

We offer a free case evaluation at (424) 372-3112.

About the Author

Sam Israels

Sam J. Israels is a Law Firm partner with the Law Offices of Cron, Israels, & Stark. Mr. Israels received his J.D. degree from the Santa Clara University School of Law. Mr. Israels also previously worked at the Los Angeles Office of the City Attorney. He is admitted to practice law in the State o...

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