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Florida has two types of crimes related to resisting an officer. The first is resisting without violence, and the other is resisting with violence. Resisting an officer with violence is a serious offense. People resist officers for many different reasons, and sometimes a defendant may struggle against an officer in an effort to avoid being arrested. At other times, however, a defendant may not realize that the person whom they are resisting is an officer or may simply be responding to brutality by the officer. There are different defenses that a criminal defense attorney may be able to raise, depending on the facts and circumstances surrounding the situation. At Hanlon Law, Tampa criminal defense lawyer Will Hanlon provides skillful and knowledgeable representation.


Florida Statutes section 843.01 prohibits willfully or knowingly opposing, obstructing, or resisting a law enforcement officer by acting violently toward the officer or threatening to commit violence. Anyone who willfully resists an officer with violence can be charged with a third-degree felony.

In order to get a conviction for resisting an officer with violence, the prosecution must show beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knowingly and willfully opposed, obstructed, or resisted a law enforcement officer who was legally following through on a legal duty or legal process. The defendant must have threatened to use violence or actually used violence, and the defendant must have known at the time that the victim was an officer or person legally authorized to execute legal process. The prosecutor will not be able to obtain a conviction if any of these elements cannot be shown beyond a reasonable doubt. “Beyond a reasonable doubt” is a very high burden of proof.

Resisting an officer with violence is a third-degree felony. If you are convicted, you can be sentenced to a maximum of five years’ imprisonment or placed on probation and fined $5,000. Prison time is more likely if an injury is inflicted or a weapon was used. For example, if you hit an officer with a stick, it is more likely that you will serve prison time. However, if you pushed the officer, but no wound was inflicted, it is more likely that you will serve several months in jail.

It is common to defend a resisting officer charge by arguing that the State has not proven one or more of the elements beyond a reasonable doubt. For example, we may be able to argue that the officer was not performing a legal duty. If a police officer was working a second job at a nightclub, they may not have been carrying out a legal duty under the statute, and in that case, the statute would not apply.

Other common defenses may include that your actions were not knowing and willful, that you did not know that you were opposing or resisting an officer, that the officer was utilizing excessive force and that your actions were proportionate and appropriate to avoid being hurt by the excessive force, or that your actions were not violent under the law. Sometimes defendants are charged with resisting an officer with violence because they are responding to the use of excessive force by the police officer. If you were faced with police brutality and responded to the brutality to protect yourself from serious bodily injuries, you may be able to use this defense successfully.


Resisting an officer with violence is a serious charge, and it is important to retain a battery or assault lawyer right away. The prosecutor will know the officer’s side of the story when determining whether to pursue charges and which charges to pursue. It is important to your defense for the prosecutor to hear your version of what happened early in the process and to understand the strength of the case from the outset. Tampa attorney Will Hanlon is committed to protecting the rights of the accused and has represented criminal defendants since 1994. Call Hanlon Law at 813-228-7095 or use our online form to set up your appointment.