What Is Resisting Arrest?
If you are facing criminal charges, it’s important to know exactly where you stand and what your future entails. This is especially true with something like resisting arrest, because it is typically a secondary charge that is tacked on to other criminal violations.
In other words, if you are charged with resisting arrest, it is likely that you are actually up against several charges that each carry their own set of consequences. In Illinois, an offense of resisting a police officer often goes hand-in-hand with an offense of obstruction of justice.
Both charges fall under the same statutes and can constitute a misdemeanor or felony. An individual may be charged with obstruction of justice if he or she gives a false name, provides intentionally misleading information, interferes with the arrest of another person, or refuses to leave an area after being asked by a law enforcement officer.
Moreover, you may not really understand why you are being charged with resisting arrest, because most people just don’t have any experience in how to act when an officer informs them they are under arrest.
Illinois law refers to resisting arrest as resisting or obstructing a correctional institution employee, firefighter, or peace officer. Resisting arrest is one of the most common types of misdemeanor offenses, and typically occurs when a police officer approaches an individual for some other type of illegal behavior or misconduct.
Resisting arrest is a Class A misdemeanor in Illinois, and comes with a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. If convicted, the law requires the individual to complete a sentence of 100 hours of community service or 48 hours in the county jail. In serious cases, resisting arrest may be deemed a felony.
Like most offenses, certain circumstances can potentially increase the severity of a resisting arrest conviction. Felony resisting arrest typically requires the individual to either behave violently or threaten violence. If the police officer, correctional institute employee, or firefighter becomes injured as a result of your resistance, you could be looking at a Class 4 felony. In Illinois, a Class 4 is the least serious type of felony and typically carries a minimum prison sentence of one year.
Quirks of the Resisting Arrest Law
Beyond the specific language in the statute, there are some important quirks that you need to understand about resisting arrest.
It doesn’t matter if the arrest shouldn’t have happened. Individuals may be charged with resisting arrest regardless of whether the police officer had any legal basis to make the initial arrest. In other words, even if it is later determined that the officer had no probable cause or reasonable suspicion to approach the person, those arguments cannot be used as defenses against the charge. The only exception in Illinois law is when a police officer is engaged in violent or grossly improper behavior that threatens the life of the arrestee.
Resistance doesn’t need to be blatant. For example, an individual may be charged for trying to pull away or refusing to put his hands behind his back when getting arrested for a DUI.
Yes, that’s right. If a cop tries to arrest you and you have a knee-jerk reaction like pulling away, it is possible that you could be charged with resisting arrest. This is why is it so important to accurately record the specifics of the incident and, if possible, utilize the testimony of witnesses.
A number of different actions qualify. What exactly constitutes as resisting arrest? While the terminology of the Illinois statute for resisting arrest is somewhat vague, it typically includes a wide variety of conduct that takes place after a police officer approaches a suspect about some other offense. Examples of resisting arrest may include attempts to pull away or refusal to put hands behind back, as mentioned above, as well as attempts to flee the scene, running and hiding from the officer, refusing to cooperate with an officer, or refusing to obey a command.
Proving the Charge – and Defending against It
To prove a resisting arrest charge, a prosecutor must produce evidence for certain “elements” of the offense. Once produced, the jury or judge must decide whether or not the prosecutor has proved each element beyond a reasonable doubt.
These elements typically include whether or not the defendant intentionally resisted arrest, whether the defendant acted violently towards the officer or threatened to act violently, and if the officer was lawfully discharging his official duties at the time of the incident.
There are several possible defenses that a defendant may use to argue against conviction if charged with resisting arrest. If an arrest was not lawful to begin with and an officer was not performing his or her duties, you did not do anything to warrant an arrest. You may also claim self-defense if the officer engaged in misconduct, such as using excessive force against you. A defense of false allegations may be used if you prove that nothing you did fits the definition of resisting arrest. You may also have a defense if the officer did not identify him or herself.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, Murder, and drug crimes.