Dealing with the police can be stressful. There may be yelling, commotion, a lot of fear and anxiety, and sometimes you can become agitated to the point where you are arrested or detained by the police. During times where someone is being arrested and handcuffed, there are scuffles with the officers. Sometimes it is the person’s fault and sometimes it is the police officer’s fault, and there are many videos online showing officers arresting people who have been tackled and thrown on the ground for seemingly no reason, who then are charged with resisting arrest.
This article will help you understand a charge of resisting arrest, what constitutes resisting arrest, what penalties are associated with the charge of resisting arrest, and what you should do if you are charged. One of the most important things to consider is that if you were charged with resisting arrest, you need to contact an experienced New Jersey criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.
What Is the Charge of Resisting Arrest?
There are many activities that could be considered “resisting arrest” when the police are attempting to subdue you. It is not just a physical struggle that happens when a police officer tries to place handcuffs on you. The following actions can be considered resisting arrest which would justify a resisting arrest charge:
- Fighting with the police.
- Forceful resistance when the police try to handcuff you.
- Hiding from the police.
- Intentionally interfering with a police officer in making an arrest.
- Physical altercations with the police who are trying to subdue you.
- Providing the police false identification.
- Running from the police who are chasing you.
- Verbal statements directed to the police threatening violence.
The Criminal Code of New Jersey N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2 is the most common statute section that is used for resisting arrest. There are other sections that are used with specific actions by the accused, however. The elements that a prosecutor has to prove in court to win a conviction under N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2 are the following:
- An arrest was attempted by a police officer.
- The defendant attempted to stop the arrest or did stop the arrest.
- The police officer was making the arrest under and by authority of their duty as a police officer.
- The police officer announced that the defendant was to be arrested.
- The defendant’s actions in attempting to prevent the arrest were done in an intentional manner.
The last element is designed to protect the defendant for unintentional actions that could be construed as resisting arrest. If a police officer was attempting to handcuff a person who then tripped and fell, causing the officer to fall as well, this would not be an intentional act. If the evidence (such as body cam video from the police officer) showed that it was an accident, then most likely the defendant would not be convicted of resisting arrest.
What Are the Potential Penalties for a Charge of Resisting Arrest?
Under New Jersey criminal law, felonies are separated into degrees, ranging from fourth degree up to the most serious felony of first degree. The lowest form of charge is a “disorderly persons offense” which has the lowest amount of sentencing attached to it. A resisting arrest charge will not be charged as a first-degree felony. The following are the penalties that you could face for resisting arrest depending upon what level of charge you receive:
- Second-Degree Resisting Arrest: Second-degree resisting arrest would be something like failing to pull over your vehicle when ordered, which can prompt a chase. If convicted, you could receive from five to 10 years in prison, and up to $150,000 in fines.
- Third-Degree Resisting Arrest: This type of resisting arrest could be something like threatening violence toward a police officer during an arrest and even injuring an officer while attempting to subdue the subject. If convicted, you could receive from three to five years in prison with a potential fine of up to $15,000.
- Fourth-Degree Resisting Arrest: If convicted of 4th degree resisting arrest, you could face up to 18 months in jail, with potential fines of $1,000.
- Disorderly Persons Offense: This is the lowest charge for the crime of resisting arrest. You could face up to 6 months in jail with potential fines of up to $1,000.
The level of charge ultimately is determined by the prosecutor based upon the facts of the case. Obviously, if police officers are injured or bystanders are injured, then this would require a higher, more serious felony charge. If the resisting arrest involves not pulling over in a vehicle, you may also face the suspension of your driving license from six months to up to two years.
Other Consequences of a Felony Conviction
There are other consequences that a defendant could face if they are convicted of a felony for resisting arrest above and beyond the jail terms and fines. If you have a felony on your record, you can lose the following opportunities and rights:
- Certain housing will not be available to you.
- Certain jobs will not be offered to you.
- If you are an immigrant, you might face immigration issues including deportation.
- Possibly prevent you from enlisting in the United States Armed Forces.
- You will be unable to own a firearm.
- You will lose the right to vote.
- You will not qualify for government backed loans.
There are also personal problems that you could face such as losing relationships with family and friends after a resisting arrest conviction.
Defenses to a Resisting Arrest Charge
Depending upon the facts of the case, there are many defenses to a resisting arrest charge that an experienced New Jersey criminal defense lawyer can use. With the right defense lawyer on your side and fighting for your rights, they can either have the charges lowered to a lesser charge or have the charges dismissed outright. The only way that this can get done is if you contact a law firm that focuses their practice on protecting the rights of people charged with crimes in New Jersey. Here are potential defenses that may be used in your case:
- Self-Defense: In some cases, a police officer may use excessive force against you without justification and you react by trying to protect yourself from the physical abuse. This defense is difficult to use in most cases. The body cam video or other evidence would have to demonstrate that you did not engage in violence against the police officer first, and that you were merely attempting to protect yourself from unreasonable behavior from the police officer.
- Unlawful Arrest: The question is often asked whether you can resist an arrest that is unlawful for some reason. In most cases, you could still be charged with resisting arrest even if the arrest was later determined to be unlawful. If the officer was not dressed in a police uniform and did not announce his intentions, this might be a valid defense.
The Belmar Criminal Defense Lawyers at Ellis Law, P.C. Will Provide a Strong Defense to Your Criminal Charges
If you have been charged with resisting arrest or some other crime, the smartest decision you can make is to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your rights. Our Belmar criminal defense lawyers at Ellis Law, P.C. have been successfully defending people from criminal charges for decades. Call us today at 732-308-0200 or contact the firm online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Freehold, our team serves clients across the region including East Brunswick, Middletown, Toms River, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, Ocean County, New Jersey along with Brooklyn and New York, New York.