What is a resisting arrest?

According to Pennsylvania law, a person is guilty of resisting arrest when they act “with the intent of preventing a public servant from effecting a lawful arrest or discharging any other duty, the person creates a substantial risk of bodily injury to the public servant or anyone else, or employs means justifying or requiring substantial force to overcome the resistance.”

In general, a resisting arrest charge is a misdemeanor of the second degree and is punishable by a sentence of up to two years of imprisonment and up to a $5,000 fine.

To be found guilty of resisting arrest, the following must be proved:

  • The defendant was aware or should have reasonably known that they were resisting a law enforcement officer
  • That the officer was performing their duties in a lawful manner
  • The defendant intentionally resisted arrest

In some cases, a person may not intentionally be resisting arrest, but may be reluctant or even responding slowly to an officer’s orders, making it seem like an obstruction. Common actions that may be seen as resisting arrest include:

  • Physically struggling against or attacking an officer
  • Giving a fake name or other false personal information
  • Acting in such a way that the officer has to carry or drag you while making the arrest

Unfortunately, when it comes to resisting arrest charges, it can be difficult to prove what really happened, as it’s your word against the arresting officers. But you do have options.

Defenses to Resisting Arrest

Potential defenses to resisting arrest include:

  • The evidence negates the crime. If the court fails to prove every element of the crime, the accused cannot be found guilty. Even if one misstep on behalf of the officer is uncovered, it can completely change the validity of the charge.
  • The defendant did not intentionally resist arrest. Be it a medical emergency, physical or mental disability, or another unintentional form of conduct, if the defendant did not intentionally resist arrest, the crime did not occur.
  • The person was not a public servant. Pennsylvania law defines a public servant as “Any officer or employee of government, including members of the General Assembly and judges, and any person participating as juror, advisor, consultant or otherwise, in performing a governmental function; but the term does not include witnesses.” Therefore, if an arrest is attempted by a private security guard or nongovernmental employee, the defendant cannot be charged with resisting arrest.
  • The conduct did not create a substantial risk of bodily injury. If the accused runs and yells, but is quickly apprehended without harm to any party, the element of harm is not substantial enough to constitute a resisting arrest charge.
  • The officer was not acting within their lawful duty. If an officer is not acting within their line of duty or violates the law while committing an arrest, it negates the charge.
  • Excessive force was being used. A simple traffic violation should not call for the use of force by the hands of a police officer. But if it does and the situation escalates, the accused may feel compelled to need to act in self-defense.

Often, the lines become blurred when it comes to a resisting arrest charge. What may have seemed like a failure to comply really was not. But when you are faced with resisting arrest charges, you need to know you have a legal team who will stand firm with you through it all.

Attorney Craig Kalinoski: Resisting Arrest Charges in Scranton, PA

Craig Kalinoski is a criminal defense attorney who is committed to protecting you in and out of court using his knowledge of the community and extensive knowledge of the law. He has a strong command of the local legal terrain, including how law enforcement and prosecutors pursue different types of charges. As a former police officer, he can understand both sides of the case which can be beneficial to your trial. Contact the Scranton criminal defense attorney today for a free consultation.

We fight for the rights of our clients in a wide spectrum of practice areas, ranging from criminal defense to family law to civil rights and personal injury.

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