California Penal Code Section 148(a) – Resisting Arrest
The crime of “resisting arrest” is covered under California Penal Code Section 148(a). It’s broadly described as a willful resist, delay, or obstruction of a law enforcement officer or emergency medical technician (“EMT”) performing their duties. A lawful duty includes just about any type of behavior in connection with their job and is not just limited to a police officer’s attempt to arrest someone. Any criminal offense against a law enforcement officer needs to be thoroughly reviewed by an experienced criminal defense lawyer to take a look at the officer’s behavior. Again, it’s important to understand that Penal Code 148(a) covers a wide range of behavior and is not just fighting with an officer who is attempting to arrest you.
While it typically involves physical acts, such as fleeing from police or actual resistance, it also includes acts of delaying or obstructing police and EMT’s from doing their job. In fact, even just a brief delay could be sufficient for someone to be charged with resisting arrest.
A common example of a physical act of resisting arrest in Los Angeles County includes a situation where police are called to a home regarding a domestic violence incident. The girlfriend explains she was punched in the face by her boyfriend during an argument and police observe physical injuries to support her story. They tell the boyfriend he is under arrest, but he becomes aggressive and physically attempts to prevent police from placing handcuffs on him. In this example, the boyfriend could be charged with resisting arrest under Penal Code 148(a) because he willfully resisted police officers from performing their duty.
Obstruction is a Form of PC 148(a) Resisting Arrest
An example of a non-physical act of resisting arrest includes a situation where a man was caught shoplifting by security guards in a mall. Police are called and when they arrive on scene, the man gives them a fake name and continues to lie about his true identity even after arriving at jail. Eventually, police are able to obtain his true name through fingerprints. In this example, the man could also face resisting arrest charges, even though he never physically resisted police, because providing them with a fake name is a type of obstruction from police performing their lawful duties.
If you have been accused of resisting arrest in violation of California Penal Code Section 148(a), early intervention into your case by a skilled Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer at the Goldstein Law Group can be critical to the outcome of your case. Vital evidence needs to be preserved and witnesses interviewed in order to prepare an effective defense strategy. Now that we have covered a general overview of a PC 148(a) resisting arrest charge, let’s examine the legal definition, penalties, related offenses, and potential legal defenses below.
Legal Definition of Penal Code 148(a) Resisting Arrest
California Penal Code Section 148(a) legally defines a resisting arrest offense as follows:
Anyone who willfully resists, delays, or obstructs a peace officer or an emergency medical technician in the discharge or attempt to discharge any duty of their employment, shall be punished up to one year in a county jail, or fined up to $1,000, or both jail and a fine.
It’s important to take a closer look at some of the key words in the definition above. You act “willfully” means it was on purpose, rather than an accident. It doesn’t matter if you had intent to violate the law. The terms resist, delay, or obstruct are very broad terms and are not limited to physical acts of resistance as discussed above.
Even though the name of the offense “resisting arrest” implies conduct such as fighting or running away from the police, it’s simply a myth that these are the only forms of conduct that could lead to a PC 148(a) resisting arrest charge. Verbal acts are also included the legal definition. Engaging in their duty of employment by a police officer or emergency medical technician is any type of activity that would fall under their lawful job description. For example, a police officer attempting to make a lawful arrest or an EMT responding to the scene of an accident.
Elements of the Crime for Resisting Arrest
The legal description of Penal Code 148(a) involves specific “elements of the crime,” meaning these factors must be proven by the Los Angeles County prosecutor in order to convict you. Under CALCRIM 2656, to prove you are guilty of resisting arrest under PC 148(a), the DA has the burden of proof, beyond a reasonable doubt, the prove the following elements:
- A police officer or emergency medical technician was lawfully, or attempting to lawfully, perform their duties
- You willfully resisted, obstructed, or delayed them from performing their duty
- You knew or should have reasonably known the police or EMT was engaged in a duty
It should be noted that you are not guilty of PC 148(a) resisting arrest unless you knew, or should have reasonably known, the person you were obstructing was a police officer or EMT performing their job. While this may sound obvious, it’s not always clear cut. For example, were the police driving an unmarked vehicle or wearing a police uniform? Consult with our Los Angeles criminal defense law firm for more information.
Legal Penalties for Penal Code 148(a) Resisting Arrest
If you are convicted on PC 148(a) resisting arrest, you are guilty of a misdemeanor offense that is punishable by up to a year in a Los Angeles County jail, a fine up to $1,000, or both. Additionally, the judge could order probation conditions that include community service or counseling. A conviction for resisting arrest would be visible to police during a future traffic stop that might result in aggressive communication and actions by police for their safety.
Related Offenses for Penal Code 148(a) Resisting Arrest
California Penal Code Section 240 – Assault
California Penal Code Section 241(c) – Assault on a Police Officer
California Penal Code Section 243(b) – Battery on a Peace Officer
California Vehicle Code Section 2800.1 – Evading Arrest
California Vehicle Code Section 2800.2 – Felony Reckless Evading
California Penal Code Section 148.3 – False Report of an Emergency
California Penal Code Section 148.4 – Making a False Fire Alarm
California Penal Code Section 148.5 – False Report of a Crime
California Penal Code Section 148.9 – False Identification to a Police Officer
California Penal Code Section 402(a) – Sightseeing at the Scene of Emergency
Legal Defenses for Penal Code 148(a) Resisting Arrest
There are a variety of defense strategies against charges of resisting arrest in violation of California Penal Code Section 148(a). The most common include the following:
Unlawful Arrest – In some cases, we may be able to argue police misconduct and the arrest was unlawful. For example, perhaps the officer lacked probable cause to arrest you in the first place. Perhaps police came into your home without a warrant or used unreasonable force. In other words, if you resisted, obstructed, or delayed an unlawful police action, you are not guilty of resisting arrest.
Self-Defense – Depending on the specific details, it may be possible to argue police were using excessive force and you were entitled to defend yourself. California’s self-defense laws allow you to protect yourself if you believed it was reasonably necessary to protect yourself and you used no more force than necessary than a reasonable person would have used in the same situation.
False Accusation – In some cases, police will exaggerate the circumstances of your arrest to support a charge of resisting arrest. Perhaps you were uncooperative or rude to police and they were seeking revenge. Perhaps they were using excessive force and seeking justification for their own actions.
Contact our Criminal Law Firm for Help
If you or a family member have been accused of resisting arrest that violated Penal Code 148(a), contact the experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys at the Goldstein Law Group. We have a track record of success and will work aggressively to obtain the best possible outcome on your case. The first step is to let us take a close look at all the specific details in order to start planning a strategy to defend you. We serve clients throughout Los Angeles County from our Hollywood office located at 1645 Vine St #809 Los Angeles, CA 90028. Contact our law firm at 323-461-2000.
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