What Happens If I Resist the Police During an Arrest in California?
If you decide to resist police while they are in the performance of their lawful duties, it will make a bad situation much worse. The crime of resisting arrest in California is defined under Penal Code 148 PC.
Clearly, you have certain legal rights once you are stopped by law enforcement, including the right to decline to answer their questions. However, you need to understand the difference between:
- Your legal rights, and
- Impeding a police officer’s lawful duties
You can’t impede a police officer’s lawful investigation, such as during a DUI stop or other similar situation.
If you fail to recognize the distinction, you will often find yourself in a situation where you are charged with an additional crime.
Resisting arrest by law enforcement officers could subject you to criminal charges under California PC 148 along with being used as an “aggravating factor” for the prosecution of the underlying offense that led to your initial arrest.
Resisting Arrest Can Be Charged Under Different California Statutes
Depending on the circumstances, you could be charged under different statutes. For example:
- Penal Code 148(a)(1) PC, resisting arrest, is a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to one year in county jail;
- Penal Code 69 PC, resisting an executive officer, is a “wobbler” that can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony crime;
- Penal Code 241(c) PC, assault of a police officer, can be charged even in a situation where no physical contact occurs;
- Penal Code 243(b), battery on a police officer, can be charged when there is actual physical force used against law enforcement.
Penal Code 148(a)(1) PC is the more common charge because it’s violated when you simply obstruct police performing their lawful duties.
In order to obtain a conviction for resisting arrest, the prosecutor must prove that you knew, or should have known, the individual affected was a law enforcement officer performing their duties.
Evading Police vs. Physical Confrontation
It’s important to note that resisting arrest can occur by either:
- Running away, or
- Physical confrontation
In most cases, becoming engaged in a physical resistance with police is an attempt to prevent being handcuffed or getting removed from the scene.
Physically resisting law enforcement while they are attempting to execute a lawful arrest is considered a serious issue by prosecutors and the criminal courts.
In rare cases, the arresting officer was acting unlawfully and thus the arrest didn’t fall within the required guidelines of performing their duties.
When a law enforcement officer attempts to unlawfully arresting someone, resisting is permitted, but only if reasonable force is used. Again, the this a very narrow set of circumstances.
Police can make an arrest based on just probable cause, but getting convicted in court will require proof beyond any reasonable doubt.
It should be noted that you could be acquitted in court of the underlying criminal charges, but still be found guilty of resisting arrest.
Resisting Arrest Charges Under Penal Code 148(a)(1) PC
In most cases, when an arrest is supported by sufficient probable cause, any type of physical resistance against law enforcement is a separate crime.
The police officer doesn’t need to sustain injuries and the level of force used by the defendant doesn’t need to be significant. Penal Code 148(a)(1) resisting arrest can be charged if someone is:
- Pushing and pulling;
- Attempting to turn away to prevent from being handcuffed, or
- Any other physical movement designed to impede the arrest.
These types of common physical resistance listed above typically will result in being charged with resisting arrest under California Penal Code Section 148(a) PC.
This is a misdemeanor crime that is punishable by up to a year in the county jail.
Assault of Police Officer Charges Under Penal Code 241(c) PC
In a situation where more serious resistance occurs by a defendant, there are several other statutes that could be charged.
California Penal Code Section 241(c) PC defines the crime of assault on a peace officer.
Assault is different than battery because assault doesn’t require actual physical contact, rather a defendant must:
- Possess the present ability to use force against a peace officer, and
- Take some action which would likely result in the application of force to the peace officer.
An example includes a situation where someone throws a bottle a police officer, but misses.
A PC 241(c) charge is also a misdemeanor with a penalty of up to a year in the county jail and a fine.
Battery on Police Officer Charges Under Penal Code 243(b) PC
In a situation where the application of force to the peace officer succeeds, the suspect could be charged with the more serious offense of battery on a peace officer.
This crime is defined under California Penal Code Section 243(b) or 243(c)(2) PC. The distinction between these two statutes is whether an injury occurred to the victim requiring medical treatment
If not, then PC 243(b) is charged as a misdemeanor and a defendant is facing a maximum punishment of one year in county jail and a fine.
If it did, then Penal Code 243(c)(2) PC is charged as a felony and the penalties include 16 months, two or three years in a California State Prison.
It should be noted that if the police officer is injured from even relatively minor use of force by the defendant, the penalties could include a felony conviction.
In other words, a Penal Code 243(c)(2) PC is a much more serious charge than the typical misdemeanor resisting arrest charge defined under Penal Code 148(a) PC.
How Can I Fight California Resisting Arrest Charges?
If you were accused of committing a crime against a police officer, our Los Angeles criminal lawyers can use a range of strategies to fight the charges. Some common defenses include:
- Act was not willful,
- Unlawful arrest,
- False allegation.
In order for the prosecutor to convict you of PC 148, they must prove your act was “willful.” We might be able to make an argument you didn’t resist arrest on purpose or the officer misinterpreted your actions.
Another defense includes an argument you were falsely accused. Perhaps the police officer exaggerated the circumstances of your arrest to support an allegation that you resisted arrest.
There are cases in where the prosecutor will agree to dismiss all underlying charges and give lenient sentences to defendants, but will insist on a plea to a Penal Code 148(a) PC offense, likely as a way of shielding the city government from possible civil liability.
Cron, Israels & Stark is a top-rated criminal defense law firm located at 11755 Wilshire Blvd, 15th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90025.
We also have an office located at 401 Wilshire Blvd #1200, Santa Monica, CA 90401. Contact our office for a free case evaluation at (424) 372-3112.