Resisting arrest is one form of obstruction of justice. Police often charge people with this offense—sometimes justifiably and sometimes not. And because resisting arrest crimes almost always involve resisting the efforts of police officers, they are prosecuted vigorously. But is resisting arrest a misdemeanor or felony? The answer is it can be both. If you or someone you love has been charged with resisting arrest, do not minimize or make light of it. A conviction stains your record and can negatively impact your life. Contact Moses and Rooth Attorneys at Law to discuss how we can defend you against these charges.
What Is Resisting Arrest?
Florida Statutes § 843.02 defines the crime of resisting an officer without violence. A person commits this crime when obstructing or resisting law enforcement personnel in the lawful execution of their duties.
This offense is often charged alongside other crimes. For instance, police can charge you with resisting when you obstruct their efforts to investigate, detain, or arrest you for a traffic offense, a drug offense, a robbery, or anything in between.
Some examples of resisting arrest include:
- Running from law enforcement,
- Physically struggling against their efforts to contain you,
- Hiding evidence,
- Providing false evidence or information,
- Refusing to obey officer commands, and
- Threatening violence.
The above list is not all-inclusive and can include a wide array of scenarios.
In Florida, there are two statutory resisting arrest crimes: resisting an officer with violence and resisting an officer without violence.
Is Resisting Arrest Without Violence a Felony in Florida?
In Florida, resisting an officer without violence is a first-degree misdemeanor. Suppose an individual resists, obstructs, or opposes any officer—or other person legally authorized to execute a legal process or perform a legal duty—without using violence. This person could be guilty of the crime of resisting an officer without violence.
The penalty for a first-degree misdemeanor is a jail term of up to one year and a maximum $1,000 fine.
3rd Degree Felony Resisting Arrest with Violence
Suppose an offender knowingly and willfully resists, obstructs, or opposes an officer by threatening to commit violence or by actually committing violence to the officer. In that case, the State will likely charge them with a third-degree felony.
A conviction for a third-degree felony is punishable by up to five years in prison, up to a $5,000 fine, five years of probation, or a combination thereof.
Is Resisting Arrest an Aggravated Felony?
For purposes of immigration, resisting arrest with violence may be considered an aggravated felony. Aggravated felonies are deportable offenses. If you have been charged with resisting an officer with the use of violence and believe it may impact your immigration status, you need to hire experienced counsel immediately.
Proving Resisting Arrest Misdemeanor or Felony
As with any crime, the prosecutor must prove the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. To establish this, the prosecutor must prove four essential elements of this crime. They must prove that:
- The defendant knowingly and willfully resisted, obstructed, or opposed the law enforcement officer by threatening or committing violence toward them;
- The officer was engaged in the execution of legal process or the lawful execution of a legal duty (e.g., a lawful arrest);
- The alleged victim was indeed a police officer or individual legally authorized to execute the legal action; and
- The defendant knew that the victim was a law enforcement officer or person legally authorized to execute the legal action.
It is important to remember that the prosecutor must prove all four elements beyond a reasonable doubt to secure a conviction.
If the defendant can raise a defense to show doubt about just one of the elements, it may be enough for an acquittal or dismissal. Hiring the right criminal defense attorney is critical. At Moses and Rooth, we are here to defend you.
Possible Defenses to a Resisting Arrest Charge
The specific facts and circumstances surrounding the events unfolding can be crucial in articulating a solid defense. Potential defenses to resisting arrest include:
- You were falsely accused,
- It was an unlawful action or arrest,
- You were acting in self-defense,
- Law enforcement used excessive force, or
- The prosecutor did not provide proof of each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
At Moses and Rooth, one of our skilled criminal defense lawyers will sit down and discuss the possible defenses to your charge in detail.
Florida Criminal Defense Attorneys
If you are facing a resisting arrest charge, you probably know by now that Florida law enforcement takes crime seriously. Whether you are facing a resisting arrest charge on its own or coupled with other charges, you need an aggressive defense. At Moses and Rooth, we are former prosecutors, which gives us a unique edge over other criminal defense lawyers. Knowing exactly how the prosecutor intends to prove their case allows us to stay a step ahead. We understand just how important your freedom is to you. Let us be your voice and your advocate in the courtroom. If you have been charged with resisting arrest, contact us immediately.