Law enforcement officers in Pinellas County love to pile on charges for resisting arrest or obstruction of justice. The charges are solely discretionary and typically based solely on the word of the officer. So, if the officer is in a bad mood or you have done something to irritate him or her, the odds that you wind up in the Pinellas County Jail will increase. Fortunately, unless you have been violent to an officer, these charges are misdemeanors. But, many people who are charged with obstruction or resisting are first time offenders. And, any time that you are involved in the criminal system on 49th St., it can be a risky proposition.
What Exactly Are Obstruction and Resisting Arrest Charges?
The charges are based on Florida Statute 843.02. It is found within the Obstruction of Justice chapter, but the statute is technically called Resisting officer without violence to his or her person. The law simply means that you can be charged if you do not follow the command of an officer. It truly is a vague allegation which is why it is so commonly used.
What Are the Penalties for Obstruction and Resisting?
Assuming that this is a nonviolent allegation, the charge is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable with up to 1 year in the Pinellas County jail, 12 months of probation and up to a $1,000 fine. If the charge is alone or combined with other misdemeanors, your case will be assigned to one of the seven-county court divisions on the third floor of the Pinellas Justice Center at 14250 49th St. N, Clearwater, FL 33762 .
If you have been arrested, your case will be assigned to a prosecutor within a couple of weeks. The prosecutor will investigate the case and make a charging decision. It is typically during the investigation when a criminal defense attorney can influence the case the most. During this time frame, it is possible to present evidence or reasons why the charge should be dropped. Also during this time, a defense attorney may be able to negotiate a minimal penalty. Regardless of what happens during the investigation stage, you can expect a charging decision to be made within a couple of months. Because the Office of the State Attorney has 90 days on a misdemeanor to bring your case to trial, you should know what is going to happen relatively quickly.
What Are Examples of Obstruction or Resisting Arrest Charges?
As mentioned above, obstruction and resisting charges are extremely common. I have seen all types of cases brought by law enforcement in Pinellas County and no two are the same. However, there are some themes among the cases. For example, if you run from the police, it is virtually guaranteed you are going to get an obstruction of justice charge. Likewise, if you are being arrested and you resist in any way, you can expect a charge for resisting arrest. This most often happens when someone is handcuffed unexpectedly or disagrees that he or she should be arrests and twists or otherwise avoids the handcuffs. Other common examples of obstruction charges are interfering with an investigation. I see this type of charge during DUI investigations when a spouse or significant other yells at police or interferes with the questioning of someone else.
Why Did I Get a Resisting Arrest Charge When I Wasn’t Resisting Arrest?
Many people get confused with the description of the charge on the clerk’s site or on the arrest/complaint affidavit. The reality is that the terms obstruction and resisting arrest are often used interchangeably because the terms are both used in the same statute. My advice is to not focus on the title of the charge, just look at the facts being alleged. Unfortunately, it is not a defense that the title of the charge isn’t spelled out fully.
Consult with a Pinellas County Criminal Defense Attorney
The reality of an obstruction or resisting arrest charge in Pinellas County is that likely the witness against you is an upset police officer. Because the prosecutors usually give great deference to the wishes of police officers, this creates risk for a defendant. Fortunately, these cases are misdemeanors and the county court judges can be reasonable if appropriate steps have been taken to correct the behavior that led to the charge. These steps could be voluntary anger management, drug or alcohol counseling, or even community service. As long as there are no injuries, a skilled criminal defense attorney can usually minimize the consequences that you face.
Many of the people who contact me after receiving one of these charges are first time offenders. Most people with little to no interaction with law enforcement in combination with drinking alcohol, have difficulty controlling their emotions when faced with the pressure of a police investigation. I specialize in helping first-time offenders get these cases dismissed or keep their records clean. Fortunately, with the right advice and motivation, your chances are high.
If you have been arrested and/or charged with obstruction of justice or resisting arrest, I encourage you to contact me for a consultation. I am confident that I can help you with your situation.