Resisting Arrest and Obstruction of Justice
December 30th, 2020
Charges of resisting arrest or obstruction of justice are serious, and the penalties can be severe. There are defenses available, but these cases can be complex and the stakes are high. If you have been charged with resisting arrest or obstruction of justice, you need a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney on your side.
What Is Resisting Arrest?
Resisting arrest occurs when someone interferes with a police officer’s or other law enforcement official’s attempt to lawfully place someone under arrest.
Michigan law defines resisting arrest as “an individual who assaults, batters, wounds, resists, obstructs, opposes or endangers a person who the individual knows or has reason to know is performing his or her duties.”
What Are the Penalties for Resisting Arrest?
A conviction for resisting arrest in Michigan is a felony that carries a sentence of up to two years in prison.
If a police officer suffers a serious injury that requires immediate medical attention as a result of someone who resists arrest, the punishment is four years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
If the police officer suffers a serious impairment of a bodily function because someone was resisting their arrest, the penalty is 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
If the law enforcement officer is killed, the punishment is 20 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.
What Circumstances Lead to a Charge of Resisting Arrest?
Police officers often use charges of resisting arrest to cover a broad category of behaviors that make it more difficult for law enforcement to investigate a crime or make an arrest. This could be something as insignificant as moving slowly or responding reluctantly to a law enforcement officer’s requests.
How Do Prosecutors Prove Resisting Arrest?
To prove a charge for arresting arrest, the prosecution must prove that:
- The defendant intentionally resisted arrest or acted in a way to prevent a law enforcement officer from making an arrest
- The defendant acted violently or threatened to act violently toward a law enforcement officer
- The law enforcement officer was lawfully executing his official duties, such as investigating a crime or making a traffic stop
What Is Obstruction of Justice and How Is It Different from Resisting Arrest?
Obstruction of justice is similar to resisting arrest, but is more commonly charged if a person has lied to law enforcement officers, misled them, or omitted information in the course of a criminal investigation.
Can I Be Charged with Resisting Arrest or Obstruction of Justice for Refusing to Answer a Police Officer’s Questions?
You cannot be convicted of resisting an arrest or obstruction of justice for exercising your constitutional rights. Prosecutors know this, but many police officers persist in charging people with crimes for lawfully exercising their rights.
Unfortunately, it is all too common for someone who challenges the actions of a police officer or refuses to provide them with an ID to be handcuffed and charged with resisting arrest or obstruction of justice.
Whether you will be convicted and the severity of your punishment will depend on how you respond, the severity of your actions, how you defend yourself against the charges, and the effectiveness of your criminal defense attorney.
What Are Defenses to a Charge of Resisting Arrest?
People who have been charged have two primary defenses available to them: self defense, and that the arrest was unlawful.
Self defense. Police officers are legally permitted to use the amount of force necessary to accomplish their lawful objective. If a police officer acts violently without a justification for using force, the person being arrested is legally permitted to protect himself and resist the arrest. However, the person being arrested can only use the amount of force necessary under the circumstances to resist the arrest.
Unlawful Arrest. An arrest is unlawful if it is not authorized by law. Examples of an unlawful arrest are arrests made without a warrant or that are not supported by probable cause.
How Do You Prove the Arrest Was Unlawful or that You Were Acting in Self Defense?
Unfortunately, there is very little you can do in the moment if you believe a police officer is using excessive force or that an arrest is unlawful. Once the police have decided you have committed a crime, there is almost nothing you can do to change their mind. Remain calm, say as little as possible, and be polite in your interactions with law enforcement. Tell the police that you want to speak to an attorney, and that you will not answer any questions until your attorney is present.
By exercising your rights, you make law enforcement’s job more difficult. They may trump up charges against you, claiming you resisted arrest or were obstructing justice.
You need to focus on the long-term implications of your actions. Be cooperative while still asserting your rights, and contact an attorney as quickly as possible.
What Should You Do If You Are Charged with Resisting Arrest or Obstruction of Justice?
Unfortunately, police officers often include charges of resisting arrest or obstruction of justice along with other misdemeanor charges. They believe a defendant is more likely to plead guilty to the misdemeanor charges in exchange for having the felony charges of resisting arrest or obstruction of justice dismissed.
Charges of resisting arrest or obstruction of justice are serious, and the penalties for conviction are severe. Prosecutors take a hard line with these cases, especially if a police officer was injured or killed. If you are facing charges of resisting arrest or obstruction of justice, you need a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney on your side.
When investigating a charge of resisting arrest or obstruction of justice, your criminal defense lawyer should carefully analyze every detail of the case to expose any violations of your rights, including issues of illegal search and seizure, whether the officers had probable cause to believe a crime had been committed, and other issues that could result in having the charges against you reduced or dismissed.
At Elmen Legal, I’ll work hard to protect your rights and fight against charges of resisting arrest or obstruction of justice. I pride myself on taking a caring and compassionate approach to representing my clients, and I understand that my clients are more than just a case. When you work with me, you’ll get personalized attention that you won’t get from a big firm.
I proudly represent people who are facing criminal charges in and around Ann Arbor. Learn more about my criminal defense services, read reviews from other people I’ve helped, and contact me today to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your case.
Categories: Criminal Charges - General Questions