What is Resisting Arrest, and How Do You Avoid It?

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Jul 10

Baker, Lewis, Schwisow & Laws

What is Resisting Arrest, and How Do You Avoid It?

by Baker, Lewis, Schwisow & Laws

What is Resisting Arrest, and How Do You Avoid It?

It’s rare for someone to be charged only with resisting arrest. Usually, it’s an “add-on” charge, leveled against someone being charged with some other crime.

In Washington, the definition of resisting arrest is quite broad. According to the law, any person who “intentionally prevents or attempts to prevent” arrest could be charged with resisting arrest.

In practice, this could mean that a startled reaction to being arrested or being approached by police could lead to a charge of resisting arrest.

Resisting arrest, in Washington, is a misdemeanor. The maximum sentence is 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Here are some tips of avoid being charged with resisting arrest in the first place, and some defense strategies if you are accused of resisting arrest.

Avoiding the Resisting Arrest Charge

If the police approach you, it’s important to remain calm. Don’t run or hide from the police, or help another person do so. If a police officer asks you for identification, don’t give a false name or a false ID. Don’t verbally threaten the officer.

You can, however, request that an officer identify him or herself and provide proof that he or she is indeed a police officer. If you feel that an officer’s actions are not appropriate, you can question his or her actions and his or her authority to arrest you. However, if the police officer insists on arresting you, you should not physically struggle against him or her.

Learn more about what you should and should not do if you’ve been arrested.

Defending Against A Resisting Arrest Charge

Unless there are a number of witnesses, it can be hard to establish exactly what happened during an arrest. However, there are a couple of strategies for defending against charges of resisting arrest.

  • The arrest was unlawful. Even if you did resist arrest, if the arrest itself was not legal you cannot be convicted of resisting arrest. For example, if you are arrested during or as a result of an illegal search of your home or vehicle, your arrest was unlawful and you cannot be convicted of resisting arrest.
  • Self-defense. If the police are using excessive force or were otherwise engaged in misconduct, you have the right to defend yourself. The key to this defense is that you have to prove that any actions you took were in reaction to police brutality. If you hit a police officer and he or she violently arrests you, you are at fault. However, if you pull away from a police officer who is striking you, unprovoked, you cannot be found guilty of resisting arrest.
     
  • False allegations. If you were rude, you swore at the officer or were sarcastic, you might be charged with resisting arrest but your actions don’t actually meet the definition of resisting arrest. This is hard to prove without witnesses.
     
  • Officer failed to identify him or herself. If an officer did not appropriately identify him or herself before arresting you, you are not guilty of resisting arrest. If you didn’t know the person attempting to arrest you was a police officer, the law does not consider you at fault even if you did struggle to resist arrest.

The bottom line is that it’s a good idea to avoid being charged with resisting arrest in the first place. Even though it’s not illegal to be rude to a police officer, swearing, insulting or otherwise being rude to law enforcement officers will never help you and can lead them to add a hard-to-rebut resisting arrest charge. If you are charged with resisting arrest, you need an experienced lawyer to help defend you.

Have you or someone you know been accused of resisting arrest? Contact the Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyers at Baker, Lewis, Schwisow & Laws

The expert defense team at Baker, Lewis, Schwisow & Laws, PLLC vigorously defend the rights of individuals facing a multitude of charges in Seattle, Bellevue, and Kirkland. Contact us today at 206.209.0608 or fill out our online contact form to get more information or to get a free case review!



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