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Is Resisting Arrest a Felony?
Resisting arrest occurs when someone interferes with an attempt from a police officer to perform an arrest. While every state law varies, in Arizona, resisting arrest simply means that a person is intentionally either preventing or trying to prevent a peace officer from making a legal arrest. You may wonder, is resisting arrest a felony? Our Phoenix criminal defense lawyers answer this in the following sections.
The accused person may resist arrest by using physical force against either another person or against the arresting officer. They may also resist arrest by enacting some other means of creating a substantial risk of physical injury to the police officer or another party.
Resisting arrest can mean anything from pulling away from the arresting officer to assaulting the law enforcement officer. If you’ve been charged with resisting arrest in Arizona, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer to combat those charges. To schedule a consultation with us, please call 602-910-4040 today.
Physical Act of Resisting Arrest on a Police Officer
If a person acts violently or causes harm to a law enforcement officer, they will undoubtedly receive felony resisting arrest charges. However, any type of physical act, such as actively fleeing, causing serious physical injury, pulling away, or even making your legs go limp, will usually result in the person being charged with resisting arrest in Arizona.
A person fleeing creates a disruption in the course of a lawful arrest, oftentimes requiring an additional law enforcement officer, and in cases of substantial risk of bodily injury, an emergency medical technician, all of which costs money.
Nonviolent Physical Act
Not every resisting arrest charge is clear-cut. When it comes to a nonviolent physical act, police officers must make a judgment call. Typically, threats of violence on a uniformed officer, even if they aren’t acted on, will satisfy the elements for resisting arrest in Arizona.
But, what happens when the person who is being arrested feels like the peace officer is making an unlawful arrest? What happens when the person voices their disagreement but doesn’t make any threats, doesn’t have a weapon, and doesn’t make any sort of movement that would make the police officer believe that he or she would use physical force on the arresting officer?
In this case, the resisting arrest charge may or may not stick. It all depends on the facts of the case and the circumstances leading up to the altercation.
Some state laws on resisting arrest require the person to only oppose the officer’s duties. This means that if the peace officer told the defendant to put his or her hands on the car, and he or she doesn’t comply, then this is considered resisting arrest.
But, other states require the defendant to do more than not obey an order from a police officer. In these states, the defendant must walk or run away, block the path of the arresting officer, or exert physical force.
Another area where states disagree on the terms surrounding resisting arrest involves profanity, arguing with a peace officer, or giving the law enforcement officer false information.
Regardless of whether or not these apply to your area, it is always better to argue with peace officers in a courtroom than it is on the street.
What Does the Arresting Law Enforcement Officer Need to Prove in a Resisting Arrest Case?
In order to have a person convicted of resisting arrest in Arizona, the prosecutor must be able to produce evidence for the following facts. These are called elements. Then, the judge or jury must determine that the prosecutor has proved each of those elements beyond a reasonable doubt.
Elements of Resisting Arrest
All of the following must be true for resisting arrest:
- The defendant either intentionally resisted a lawful arrest or obstructed a law enforcement officer when he or she was in the process of making an arrest. They must intentionally act in a way that hinders, impedes, or delays an arrest. The defendant does not need to cause harm.
- The defendant knew or the defendant should have known that he or she was resisting a police officer.
- A peace officer was acting lawfully and carrying out his or her lawful duties. This simply means that the peace officer was properly engaged in his or her active official duties. This can include making a traffic stop or investigating a domestic dispute claim. A peace officer can be acting unlawfully even if he or she arrests the wrong person. When this happens, the charges are dropped and the defendant will secure an acquittal if the case goes to trial.
Who is Considered a Law Enforcement Officer?
State laws vary in terms of defining a peace officer’s official authority for the purposes of a resisting arrest charge. Police officers, marshalls, sheriffs, peace officers, and any other term to cover law enforcement personnel is included under the law enforcement officer umbrella. But, in Arizona, the law also covers those who coordinate with police officers, such as a probation officer, prison guard, parole officer, correctional officer, or park ranger.
Since private security guards aren’t performing a public service, typically they are treated as a private citizen and not as a law enforcement officer.
Defenses to Resisting Arrest Charges
If you were charged with resisting arrest, you may have one or more defenses.
Law enforcement officers have the legal right to use the amount of force that is necessary to complete an arrest. However, if the arresting peace officer uses unreasonable or excessive force, then the person being arrested has the legal right to protect themselves.
The arrestee may not act violently towards the peace officer making the arrest unless the officer was acting outside the scope of his or her duties.
Furthermore, the person being arrested must only use the amount of physical force necessary to protect themselves. So for example, a reasonable person can subdue the peace officer who was using excessive force outside his or her duties, but then cannot further harm the officer.
An unlawful arrest is an arrest that isn’t authorized by law. This can include an arrest without a warrant or an arrest without probable cause. As previously mentioned, the arrestee may only use reasonable force when resisting arrest.
In some states, regardless of whether it is an illegal arrest or not, the arrestee must submit to the unlawful arrest, just as long as the peace officer is performing his or her lawful duties.
For the arrestee’s safety, it’s best to argue whether or not the arrest was legal in a court of law instead of on the streets.
Penalties for Resisting Arrest
The penalties for resisting arrest will depend on the severity of actions taken by the arrestee: the amount of physical force exerted, how much physical injury was inflicted, or the amount of property damage caused to the law enforcement vehicle pursuing the arrest.
Is Resisting Arrest a Felony in Arizona?
A felony resisting arrest charge typically requires that the arrestee either acts violently or threatens to act violently toward a public officer. If the arrestee flees in a vehicle, under certain circumstances, this can also constitute a felony offense.
The various actions that are taken to resist arrest will result in different resisting arrest charges.
In Arizona, passive resistance is a class 1 misdemeanor resisting arrest charge. This is considered the most serious type of misdemeanor offense. A misdemeanor resisting arrest conviction can lead to:
- up to 6 months of jail time
- 3 years of probation, and
- a fine of up to $2,500.
An arrestee who threatens a police officer with physical force or creates a substantial risk of injury, not only for the arresting peace officer, but for any other party involved is a class 6 felony resisting arrest charge. A felony conviction can result in 1 year of jail time. Those who have been found guilty of resisting arrest more than once may be subject to more jail time, longer probation time, and higher fines.
In the state of Arizona, many courts waver between a class 1 misdemeanor and a class 6 felony. So, if a class 6 felony doesn’t really justify a harsh sentence, then the judge may go for a class 1 misdemeanor.
Talk to an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer in Phoenix, AZ
If you’ve been charged with resisting arrest or think you may be charged with resisting arrest, you need to consult with an experienced Phoenix criminal defense attorney who knows the ins and outs of resisting arrest charges. Evading arrest can come with some harsh punishments, and our experienced lawyers provide a free consultation where they’ll go over the specifics of your resisting arrest case and help you develop a defense strategy.
Our lawyers understand the way criminal law works and have skillful negotiation techniques that can sometimes lead to a reduction of felony resisting arrest charges to misdemeanor resisting arrest charges. In some cases, we may be able to have your case dismissed altogether. If you do have to go to trial, you have a qualified and experienced criminal defense lawyer in your corner.