Resisting an Officer Without Violence

Attorney Advocating for Criminal Defendants in Tampa

In Florida, it is a crime to resist a law enforcement officer with or without violence. Although the penalties are more severe for resisting with violence, you should take a charge of nonviolently resisting an officer seriously. Sometimes people resist an officer because they believe that leaving the scene or running away will cause a problem to disappear. Sometimes resisting an officer without violence is a charge brought by a prosecutor to supplement other criminal charges. At Hanlon Law, Tampa criminal defense lawyer Will Hanlon provides knowledgeable legal representation and can look at the total facts and circumstances to determine which defenses would be appropriate.

Resisting an Officer Without Violence

Resisting an officer nonviolently can include warning others that the police are coming, lying, providing a false identity or identification, fleeing after being told to stop, not getting up when asked, or not placing your hands behind your back when asked. It can include any refusal to obey verbal commands. Often, actions that form the basis for this charge can seem minor to the defendant. However, more serious actions of resistance can include concealing evidence, evading the police when they have a reasonable suspicion of criminal wrongdoing, inciting others to interfere with police activities, or presenting an invalid identification upon a lawful arrest.

In order to prove the crime of resisting an officer, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you opposed, obstructed, or resisted a law enforcement officer who was involved in executing legal process or a legal duty at the time, and you knew that the person whom you were opposing, obstructing, or resisting was an officer or another person legally authorized to execute legal process.

Officers under this code section can include police officers, county probation officers, personnel from the Department of Law Enforcement, or members of the Florida Commission on Offender Review.

If the prosecutor establishes those four elements, and you did not do violence to the officer or threaten to do violence to the officer, you can be convicted of a misdemeanor in the first degree. As a first-degree misdemeanor, you can be sentenced to a maximum of one year in jail and $1,000 in fines. In most cases, it will be less, but it is important to realize that if you do not present a successful defense, you will have a permanent criminal record and probably a term of probation. When there are aggravating circumstances, it is likely that the prosecutor will seek jail time. Moreover, if you have a criminal record already or a history of resisting arrest, it is very likely that you will go to jail if you are convicted.

An experienced attorney can make a difference to the outcome of your case. In some cases, your lawyer may be able to negotiate to have the charge dropped or to get some sort of plea deal. In other cases, an attorney can present a successful defense. Some common defenses include arguing that you did not actually oppose or obstruct a law enforcement officer, you had an involuntary physical response that caused you to tense up during the arrest or jerk away, an officer was not acting under a legal duty or not acting in a lawful way, an officer failed to explain the arrest, or an officer conducted an unlawful arrest or detention.

Generally, words alone are not enough to be considered resistance under the First Amendment, but there are situations in which your words can result in liability under this code section, such as when an officer asks for help, legally detains you, or tries to serve process. Similarly, the First Amendment will not protect you if an officer sees a crime and tries to make an arrest, but you warn the suspect about the police in order to stop the suspect from being apprehended. Other affirmative falsehoods during arrest are also not protected by the First Amendment because they hinder the officer's ability to do their job.

Retain a Criminal Attorney in the Tampa Area to Protect Your Rights

It is unlawful to resist an officer without violence. The prosecutor will learn the officer's version of what happened when deciding whether to pursue charges, and it can be important to your defense for the prosecutor to also hear your version of what happened early in the process of deciding whether to pursue charges. Our founder, Will Hanlon, is committed to protecting the rights of the accused in the Tampa area and has represented criminal defendants since 1994. Call Hanlon Law at 813-228-7095 or use our online form to set up an appointment with an assault or battery attorney.