4 Legal Things to Know When You’re Facing Resisting Arrest Charges

Common citizens might think that the idea of resisting arrest is something police can charge anyone with if they think it happened. However, there are specific components necessary to prove this charge. 

1. Specific Elements

Resisting an arrest might happen if a police officer is trying to do their official functions of detention or arrest when someone delays, resists, or obstructs them. Refusing to stop when law enforcement signals, applying physical force against them, and creating a high level of physical risk to their safety all can qualify as specific examples of resisting arrest.

2. Potential Penalties

The act of resisting arrest has penalties that vary from state to state and sometimes even at the municipal level. Still, you might be at risk of any or all of these:

  • Fines: Courts might impose financial penalties on defendants ranging from several hundred to several thousand dollars.
  • Incarceration: If you are convicted of resisting arrest as a felony, you’ll likely spend more than a year in state prison. If you are convicted as a misdemeanor, you’ll probably serve less than a year in a local jail.
  • Probation: Probation can mean spending some of your conviction while still in the public community, provided you meet with your probation officer, attend counseling, and maintain employment. Violating probation can mean going back behind bars.

3. Law Enforcement Officers Defined

The act of resisting arrest has to apply to specifically defined law enforcement officers. Officers and agents of municipal, state, and federal agencies typically qualify. Prison guards, probation officers, correctional officers, parole supervisors, and park rangers also frequently fall under this definition.

Security guards at private establishments, such as warehouses or shopping malls, don’t typically count as someone you would be legally punished for resisting arrest. However, if the security guard is an off-duty police officer, it’s a legal gray area.

4. Common Defenses

If you get a criminal lawyer to defend you, they might use one of the common defenses against resisting arrest charges:

  1. Evidence to the Contrary: Physical evidence might exist that you didn’t actually resist arrest. Exonerating evidence might include photos, videos, police bodycams, or live testimony.
  2. Mistaken Identity: Some states let defendants assert their reasonable belief that an arresting officer wasn’t actually a member of the law enforcement community.
  3. Self-Defense: If officers use excessive force, then suspects might try to defend themselves.
  4. Unlawful Arrest: Some states might void arrests if the officer did something unlawful in the process.

Don’t Fight These Charges Alone

If you get charged with resisting arrest, the police and prosecutors might make you think the case is open and shut. In reality, however, it’s often quite a find line separating guilt and innocence. A criminal defense attorney can represent you in such circumstances.



Alex is the co-author of 100 Greatest Plays, 100 Greatest Cricketers, 100 Greatest Films and 100 Greatest Moments. He has written for a wide variety of publications including The Observer, The Sunday Times, The Daily Mail, The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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