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What Counts as Resisting Arrest and How Can You Defend It?

— June 7, 2022

In a case where the police officer did not identify themselves while arresting, you might fight the charges based on that fact if you have a good criminal defense lawyer.

Simply put, a resisting arrest occurs when a person is intentionally preventing a police officer from placing them under an arrest. 

What is Considered as Resisting Arrest?

The crime can be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the crime.

Felony resisting arrest requires that a person acts or threatens to act violently toward the police arresting police officer.

Misdemeanor resisting arrest requires actions like hiding or running from a law enforcement officer.

Resisting arrest is a serious charge which is why you will need a consultation from an experienced criminal defense lawyer. 

Here are some examples that may be interpreted as resisting:

  • Hiding
  • Running away
  • Providing police officers a false identification
  • Making threats to the arresting police officer
  • Forcefully resisting when handcuffed

Law Enforcement Officers

Defining the term law enforcement officer depends on the state. In addition to sheriffs, police officers, and other commonly encountered officers, the term can include law enforcement personnel like probation supervisors, prison guards, park rangers, correctional officers, or parole officers. 

For example, private security guards are treated as private citizens because they are not performing a public duty. There are some exceptions when an off-duty law enforcement officer works as a private security guard. But then again, some courts apply this rule, some do not.

State laws vary when it comes to proving the amount of resistance. For instance, physical violence is enough to prove felony resisting arrest, while non-threatening statements of disagreement are not enough. But loud and threatening statements are considered enough to prove felony resisting arrest.

How to Defend a Charge of Resisting Arrest?

There are several options for how to defend a resisting arrest:


Police officers have the right to use the necessary amount of force to make an arrest. In a case, a police officer acts violently without any justified reason, the arrestee can resist the arrest to protect himself/herself. The person arrested can’t act violently toward the police officer except when the police officer acts violently first.

Furthermore, the arrestee must use only the amount of force necessary to resist the arrest. For example, in a situation where the arrestee subdued the police officer who has acted excessively, then the arrestee can’t harm the police officer further.

Unlawful arrest

An unlawful arrest is not authorized by law, like an arrest without probable cause or without a warrant. Depending on the state, in some cases, a person can resist an unlawful arrest with reasonable force. Reasonable force is defined as the amount of force necessary to resist the arrest.

Police Officers did not identify themselves

In a case where the police officer did not identify themselves while arresting, you might fight the charges based on that fact if you have a good criminal defense lawyer.

Resisting the Arrest When Innocent

If a police officer is trying to arrest you for a crime you did not commit, the best thing you can do is to submit to the arrest. As we already mentioned, resisting arrest is a crime by itself so if you are innocent, it is better to allow the arrest to take place.

To resolve this situation, it is better to deal with it through the legal procedure and to hire a criminal defense lawyer.


Hallway of jail cells
Hallway of jail cells; image courtesy of Tom Blackout via Unsplash,

Generally, the penalties for resisting arrest are:

  • Fines. The court can impose fines to penalize the arrestee. Fines depend on the circumstances and the offense. 
  • Probation. You may serve a part of your sentence in the community, jail, or prison. A person that is on probation at regular intervals meets with a probation officer and fulfills other conditions and terms. If you violate the probation, then the judge may order you to serve your sentence in jail or prison.
  • Incarceration. In a case of a felony conviction, a penalty of one year or more can be served in state prison. In the case of a misdemeanor sentence, the penalty may be served in local jails, usually less than one year of incarceration.

The Bottom Line

If you are under investigation or arrested, the first thing you should do is to contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer. He or she will evaluate the case against you and help you to develop your defense. Most time, a skillful criminal defense lawyer knows how to negotiate with the prosecutor which results in a reduction of the penalty or even dismissal of the charges. If you need to go to trial, a good lawyer will be crucial.

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