Laws Against Resisting Arrest – What You Need to Know

By Lowry Law Firm | Posted on February 26, 2015

Ever since the death of Eric Garner – who was killed when a New York City police officer accused him of resisting arrest, and placed him in a chokehold – there has been a lot of attention focused on the charge of “resisting arrest.” Many people have heard of the term, but do not fully understand what it means.

In Florida, resisting with violence and resisting without violence are two separate offenses, with significantly different punishments. Resisting with violence is a third degree felony, while resisting without violence is a misdemeanor.

Resisting With Violence

The official title for the charge of resisting with violence is “resisting officer with violence to his or her person.” Under Florida Statute 843.01, someone is guilty of this violation if they knowingly and willfully resist, obstruct, or oppose an officer, by offering or doing violence to the officer while the officer is in the execution of a legal process or legal duty.

The charge of resisting with violence may be applicable even if the victim is not a police officer. For this statute, the term “officer” can apply to a law enforcement officer, a correctional officer, or a correctional probation officer. The statute also covers incidents in which the victim was a representative of the Florida Commission on Offender Review or the Department of Law Enforcement, or a county probation officer, or a parole and probation supervisor.

A few aspects of this law that you should be aware of:

  • The charge is inapplicable to someone who did not know that the person they were resisting was an officer.
  • The charge applies only if the victim was engaged in a lawful duty when the resistance occurred. If the victim was an officer who was off-duty at the time of the resistance, then it is unlikely that the charge would apply.
  • There is also a charge known as battery on a law enforcement officer. It is not unusual for someone to be charged with both resisting arrest with violence and battery on a law enforcement officer.
Resisting Without Violence

The official title for the charge of resisting without violence is “resisting officer without violence to his or her person.” (It is also commonly referred to as “obstruction.”) Under Florida Statute 843.02, someone is guilty of this violation if they resist, obstruct, or oppose an officer in the execution of a legal process or legal duty without offering or doing violence to the officer. The same types of victims listed above, in the description of resisting with violence, are also covered under this law.

People are sometimes charged with resisting without violence for lying to police, for disobeying the commands of police officers, or for simply walking away from the police. There are circumstances in which citizens have a right to walk away from the police, or to disobey certain commands – but this is not always the case, and it is not always easy to know when you have these rights, and when you don’t.

Defending Yourself Against Charges of Resisting

If you, or someone you know, has been charged with resisting with violence or resisting without violence, it is important to seek legal advice. There are a number of different defenses to these charges, and Fort Lauderdale attorney Mark S. Lowry has years of experience defending clients in criminal cases. You can call or contact the office today.