As Florida criminal defense attorneys, we are often asked, Can you get jail time for resisting arrest? And the answer is yes. Depending on the circumstances, a resisting arrest conviction in Florida can land you behind bars for several years. It also comes with a slew of other possible consequences. The best way to avoid spending any time in jail is to hire an experienced lawyer to defend you in court.
How much jail time you get for resisting arrest rests mainly on whether you are charged with resisting with or without violence.
Resisting Without Violence
Under Florida law, a person commits the crime of resisting without violence when they obstruct or resist law enforcement personnel during the lawful execution of their duties. Examples of resisting without violence include the following actions:
- Concealing evidence,
- Providing false or misleading information,
- Running or walking away from police, and
- Interfering with a police investigation.
A conviction for resisting an officer without violence is a first-degree misdemeanor. It is punishable by up to one year in jail, one year of probation, and up to $1,000 in fines.
Resisting Arrest with Violence
In Florida, resisting arrest with violence is a third-degree felony. A person is guilty of this crime if they knowingly and willfully resist, obstruct, or oppose an officer by threatening to commit violence or by actually committing violence against the officer. Now what would otherwise be a misdemeanor offense is elevated to a felony.
A conviction for a third-degree felony is punishable by up to five years in prison. You also face up to five years of probation, up to a $5,000 fine, or a combination of these penalties.
Examples of resisting arrest with violence include the following acts:
- A physical altercation or struggle with police,
- Threatening violence against the officer,
- Refusing to be handcuffed,
- Tensing or stiffening up while being handcuffed,
- Any use or threat of use of a weapon, and
- Any hitting, pushing, striking, punching, kicking, biting, etc.
Notably, if you have prior criminal convictions, you can face enhanced penalties, including sentencing to the maximum amount of jail time allowed by statute. Ultimately, resisting could land you behind bars for multiple years.
Resisting and Other Crimes
Whether a misdemeanor or felony, this offense is often charged in conjunction with other crimes. For instance, you may be charged with resisting when you obstruct the police from arresting you for a drug offense, traffic violation, violent crime, or anything in between. Because each situation is unique, it is difficult to formulate an average time spent in jail for resisting arrest. Having so many different variables influencing the charges and penalties you face makes it imperative to have a skilled attorney advocating for you.
Felony Conviction Consequences in Addition to Jail Time
A felony resisting arrest conviction also leads to other unwanted collateral consequences that may impact the rest of your life.
In addition to jail time, a defendant convicted of a third-degree felony in Florida faces up to five years of probation. During probationary supervision, a defendant may be ordered to do the following:
- participate in community service,
- submit to drug and alcohol testing,
- attend counseling or therapy,
- pay restitution, and
- lose a certain degree of fundamental freedoms.
One such freedom that could be lost during probation is the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. When you are on probation, your probation officer can come to your home unannounced and search your home without needing probable cause that you have committed a crime. You might also be subjected to travel restrictions.
In Florida, convicted felons are not eligible to vote until the completion of their prison sentence and probation. You also need to pay all fines, fees, court costs, and restitution before voting rights can be restored.
Under Florida law, it is illegal for convicted felons to own or otherwise possess firearms unless and until they petition for their gun ownership rights to be restored.
It is no secret that most employers routinely perform background checks on potential hires. It can be challenging for convicted felons to obtain or maintain employment.
In addition, you must be concerned with the arrest and conviction staying on your record, potentially for life. Florida only permits the sealing or expunging of one crime in a lifetime. Assuming you meet all other criteria, if you have multiple arrests or convictions, you may not be eligible for expunging your resisting arrest conviction.
A felony conviction can also negatively impact your ability to apply for housing and education loans. Felony convictions can make an otherwise eligible applicant ineligible for certain federal student loans and other financial assistance.
Proving Resisting Arrest Is the State’s Burden
The prosecutor must prove the defendant is guilty of resisting arrest beyond a reasonable doubt, regardless of whether they classify the crime as a misdemeanor or felony.
Specifically, the prosecutor must prove four essential elements of this crime:
- The defendant knowingly and willfully resisted, obstructed, or opposed the law enforcement officer by threatening or committing violence toward them;
- The officer was executing a legal process or the lawful execution of a legal duty (e.g., an arrest);
- The individual was indeed a law enforcement officer; and
- The defendant knew the victim was law enforcement.
If the prosecutor cannot prove all four elements, they cannot secure a conviction. It is imperative to have a competent, skilled defense team to cast doubt on at least one of these elements. At Moses and Rooth, we are here to do just that.
Possible Defenses to a Florida Resisting Arrest Charge
Facing a resisting arrest charge can be worrisome, but defenses are available. Articulating precisely what occurred during your arrest will assist your defense attorney in strategizing the best defense available.
Potential defenses to resisting arrest include:
- It was self-defense,
- You were falsely accused,
- It was an unlawful arrest,
- The police used excessive force, or
- There was a lack of evidence to prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
At Moses and Rooth, one of our knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys will sit down and discuss the potential defenses to your charge in detail.
Resisting Arrest Criminal Defense Lawyers
At Moses and Rooth, we are former prosecutors. We understand the burden the State has to prove a resisting arrest charge. Our unique insight allows us to strategize and formulate a strong client defense. Please don’t take a chance with your freedom. Contact us today to schedule a confidential, no-cost consultation.