Resisting arrest in Florida (also known as obstruction) is a common crime used by the police as an excuse to arrest someone. If you’ve been charged with resisting arrest in Florida, you likely have other charges that were added on. In all cases, you should contact a criminal defense attorney to discuss options to get the charges dismissed or the situation minimized. The goals should be to protect your record and avoid jail time.
Officers frequently accuse people of these crimes for almost no reason and often with no witnesses. In almost all resisting or obstructing cases, there is no independent evidence- it is simply the word of the officer against you. However, resisting arrest in Florida can be defended and potentially dismissed with the help of a criminal defense attorney.
What Is Resisting Arrest in Florida?
In Florida, there are two types of crimes for resisting arrest – ‘without violence’ and ‘with violence’.
Resisting Arrest Without Violence:
Resisting arrest in Florida without violence is the most common. It is defined in Florida Statute 843.02 as:
“Whoever shall resist, obstruct, or oppose any [law enforcement or probation] officer or other person legally authorized to execute process or in the lawful execution of a legal duty, without offering or doing violence to the person of the officer, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree.”
Resisting Arrest With Violence:
Florida Statute 843.01 describes resisting arrest with violence as:
“Whoever knowingly and willfully resists, obstructs, or opposes any [law enforcement or probation] or other person legally authorized to execute the process in the execution of legal process or in the lawful execution of any legal duty, by offering or doing violence to the person of such officer or legally authorized person, is guilty of a felony of the third degree.”
What Does Resisting Mean?
In simple terms, this means:
If any person attempts to escape from an arresting officer, physically struggles with the officer or ignores their instructions, they could be charged with resisting arrest in Florida.
Common examples include:
- Running from a police officer
- Concealing evidence
- Disobeying verbal commands
- Providing false information to law enforcement
- Refusing to leave an area
- Refusing to put your hands behind your back
- Pushing or striking a police officer
- Tensing or moving arms to prevent being handcuffed
- Threatening to harm a police officer
What To Do After a Resisting Arrest in Florida Charge?
So what do you do next? As criminal defense attorneys, we’re well aware that you may have been unfairly charged with this crime. But, even if you did something wrong, we will need to come up with a strategy to minimize the consequences.
Officers frequently allege these crimes when they get impatient, don’t like you, or because they’re having a bad day. Officers sometimes use these charges as a catch-all to pile on an individual when they have no other reason.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney As Soon As Possible
The first thing you should do is contact a criminal defense attorney. Our criminal defense attorneys can work on your behalf to quickly establish the facts and work to show your case should be dismissed or have reduced penalties. We often utilize the following defenses:
Possible Defenses for Resisting Arrest in Florida
Lack of Proof
The best line of defense for every resisting charge is that it cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The elements of the crime are very general, so there is wiggle room. It is your lawyer’s job to poke holes in the evidence or point out the lack of evidence.
If the only evidence is the officer’s word, then the case can sometimes be dismissed. Your criminal defense attorney can work to find the weak points of the case, such as through video evidence (body cams) or any other witness testimonies that may contradict the officer’s story.
Involuntary Reactions or Excessive Force
The law states that you must have ‘knowingly and willfully impeded an officer” or had a “general intent” to resist. If you moved your arms or body as a reflex motion to avoid injury or pain, then the charge will likely not stand.
You also have the right to resist an officer without violence if the officer unlawfully arrests or detains you.
This can happen if the police confront someone without the required level of probable cause or reasonable suspicion.
One example includes E.A.B vs. State, 851 So. 2d 308 (Fla. 2d DCA 2003):
The defendant was approached by a police officer at a gas station and without ‘reasonable suspicion’ was interrogated by the officer about vehicle thefts in the area. The defendant ran away, so the officer charged them with resisting arrest.
However, the court overturned the charge, determining that the police officer had insufficient reason to justify an arrest.
Too often, we’ve seen officers perform an arrest because they’ve taken things personally or not liked a defendant’s tone.
This can cause the officer to perform an arrest and accuse the defendant of becoming violent, as they have no other crime to charge them with.
The police hold authority but do not have the right to do whatever they please. Without sufficient evidence, false arrests can easily be dismissed.
What To Do If You Really Did Resist an Arrest?
If you’ve been charged with resisting arrest in Florida and you know it was probably justified – all hope is not lost. It may still be possible to drop the case or have the penalties minimized. The way that we do this is to demonstrate to the prosecutor about why you deserve leniency. This can be as simple as telling them about your background and the circumstances that led up to the incident. In alcohol or drug related incidents, we might want someone to do some alcohol counseling or provide a negative urine screen. In some cases, we suggest to our clients to do some voluntary community service. These are just some of the techniques that we use to help our clients avoid penalties even when the case can be proven against them.
If You Have Committed Previous Offenses
Judges are impatient with people who have been arrested, but even more so with anyone with previous crimes to their name. The biggest risk here is when there are other charges pending and the resisting charge is just one of several. When there is more risk, that means that you will need to do more to minimize the consequences.
Taking responsibility for your behavior can also win some leniency. For example, showing you’re receiving anger management counseling or attending an alcoholic support group (if the behavior was influenced by alcohol).
Penalties for Resisting Arrest in Florida
- Resisting Without Violence – Penalty as a Misdemeanor:
- Up to one year in jail or 12 months of probation, and a $1,000 fine.
- Resisting with Violence – Penalty as a Felony:
- Up to five years in prison or five years of probation, and a $5,000 fine.
Resisting Arrest Attorney in Pinellas County, FL
The good news is that these charges are normally misdemeanors. If you have a good record and a good background, it makes the chances much higher that we will be able to get the charge dismissed. If you want to fight a charge for resisting arrest in Florida, you must contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Over the years, we’ve had very good success in getting these charges dismissed or penalties minimized and keeping criminal records clean. Our strategy has worked time and time again, so we can be trusted to help.
Sean McQuaid is a top-rated criminal defense attorney in Pinellas County. He was the President of the St. Petersburg Bar Association, a group of 1,100 lawyers and judges in the area from 2020-21. He is the managing partner at Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A., one of Tampa Bay’s most prestigious law firms with the reputation and connections to make things happen.
With decades of experience helping people like you, we believe there is no better place to help you fight or reduce a charge for resisting arrest in Florida.
Contact us today for a free consultation to get started or CALL (727) 381-2300