Is Resisting Arrest Ever Legal?
Most people assume not, but it turns out, in some rare instances, resisting arrest can be legal. It’s not often recommended by legal and law enforcement professionals for a variety of reasons, but depending on where you live and a few other circumstantial factors, there could be a precedent for using reasonable force to resist an unlawful arrest.
What is Resisting Arrest?
In simple terms, resisting arrest is the act of interfering with law enforcement’s attempt to place someone in custody. But there’s a little more to it than that in many cases, and the exact definition varies by state. Minnesota statute 609.50 defines resisting arrest as “obstructing legal process, arrest or firefighting.”1 The statute goes on to state “whoever intentionally does any of the following may be sentenced as provided in subdivision 2:
- obstructs, hinders, or prevents the lawful execution of any legal process, civil or criminal, or apprehension of another on a charge or conviction of a criminal offense;
- obstructs, resists, or interferes with a peace officer while the officer is engaged in the performance of official duties;
- interferes with or obstructs a firefighter while the firefighter is engaged in the performance of official duties;
- interferes with or obstructs a member of an ambulance service personnel crew, as defined in section 144E.001, subdivision 3a, who is providing, or attempting to provide, emergency care; or
- by force or threat of force endeavors to obstruct any employee of the Department of Revenue while the employee is lawfully engaged in the performance of official duties for the purpose of deterring or interfering with the performance of those duties.”
When Is It Legal?
The most important thing to remember is that, in general, resisting arrest is only legal if the arrest is an unlawful one, such as if a police officer is attempting to make an arrest without probable cause or without a warrant. The resistance must also be made with “reasonable force,” meaning the court must deem whatever resistance used by the defendant as an appropriate amount and not excessive.
It’s also important to note that even if an arrest is unlawful by definition, if the arresting officer believed it to be lawful at the time, then using reasonable force to resist may still be punishable either as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the situation and state.
There are quite a few factors at play, which is why it’s often best to avoid resisting arrest even if the arrest seems unlawful to you at the time. It may be in your best interest to seek legal recourse instead, such as wrongful arrest or criminal defense representation.
There have been several instances where the court ruled in favor of the defendant, proclaiming that, since their arrest was unlawful, their resistance was not illegal.
Ewumi v. State, 315 Ga. App. (2012)
A Georgia police officer was investigating gun shots at an apartment complex when he noticed a young man walking near the area in question. After unsuccessfully trying to question the young man, the officer approached the young man, who then began running toward his home. The officer eventually tackled the young man, arm-barred and attempted to put him in hand cuffs. The young man physically resisted by kicking his legs and throwing elbows. During the struggle, the officer applied a taser. Later, at the station, a small amount of marijuana was found on the young man’s person. He was charged with simple battery, obstruction and drug possession.
After lengthy legal proceedings, the Court of Appeals ruled the young man was “justified in resisting the attempted arrest with all force that was reasonably necessary to do so,” since the officer didn’t have probable cause for arrest. Also, because the drugs were only found on him after an illegal arrest, he could not be charged with possession.
J.G.D. V. State, 724 So. 2d 711 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1999)
In a similar situation, a Florida juvenile was arrested after he was publicly protesting police actions at an apartment complex. After failing to comply with police orders to leave the complex, he was taken into custody and charged with resisting arrest. The appeals court eventually ruled in his favor, proclaiming that he was justified in non-violently resisting as the police did not have probable cause to make an arrest.
Other Things to Remember
Though there have been some instances where rulings of resisting arrest and convictions being reversed, it’s rare. Many experts, including published retired police officer Tim Dees, do not recommend resisting arrest even if it’s clear the arrest is unlawful. Dees cites the likelihood of the arresting officer using increasingly forceful tactics during an arrest and the greater likelihood a court interprets resistance as an admittance of guilt as reasons enough to peaceably comply.
Also, remember how rare it is that resisting arrest ever ends well for a defendant. The people who have gotten away with it only did so after lengthy legal battles. Lastly, if you go peaceably even though your arrest was unwarranted you may have a legitimate civil case against the law enforcement personnel and department. You may be able to sue and get paid a settlement for the injustice inflicted upon you.
Have You Been Arrested? Get Help From Goldberg Bail Bonds Today!
Dealing with an arrest, especially a suspected unlawful one, can be one of the most difficult situations imaginable for individuals and families. If you or a family member has been incarcerated in Minnesota, Goldberg Bail Bonds will work tirelessly to help you regain your freedom so you can work to find the best possible solution to your situation.
For more informati1https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=609.50&year=2011&keyword_type=all&keyword=Obstructingon, call (612) 333-8811 or visit us online today. Bail agents are available 24/7 to take your call!