Is Arguing with a Police Officer Considered Resisting Arrest?

Law enforcement officials have a very important job of protecting public safety. When someone is alleged to have committed a crime, police officers act quickly to make an arrest if necessary. Unfortunately, they don’t always get the full story before deciding to take a person into custody, which means they might arrest an individual who believes that the action is unfair and wants to give their account before being handcuffed. If you find yourself in this situation, you might wonder about the impacts of arguing with a police officer. Depending on what you do, you could be charged with resisting arrest, a misdemeanor in California.

If you need help with your criminal case, schedule a consultation with a member of our Los Angeles team at Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP by calling (800) 462-7160 or submitting an online contact form today.

Explaining California’s Law on Resisting

California Penal Code 148(a) makes it illegal to willfully resist, delay, or obstruct a police officer lawfully performing their duties.

To seek a conviction, a prosecutor must prove that:

  • The police officer was lawfully carrying out or attempting to carry out the functions of their job,
  • The defendant intentionally interfered with the police officer’s performance of their duties, and
  • The defendant knew that the officer was performing or trying to perform their duties.

Various acts can be considered resisting arrest. When many people hear this term, they might think of someone physically struggling with an officer. But other non-physical actions might fall under the legal definition of resisting. For instance, charges for the offense might arise if someone refuses to give the officer their name.

Therefore, you could be accused of resisting for arguing with a police officer. Your actions must have somehow prevented the officer from arresting or detaining you.

The Consequences of Resisting Arrest

Arguing with a police officer in a way that impedes or delays an arrest can have serious consequences. A resisting arrest charge is a misdemeanor in California. A conviction can result in a fine of up to $1,000 and/or a jail term of not more than 1 year.

When Arguing Might Not Be Considered Resisting

You may only be charged with resisting arrest if you interfere with a police officer who is lawfully performing or attempting to perform their duties. If the officer was acting outside of their authority, you might have an argument against a resisting charge.

A police officer is not lawfully performing their duties if they:

  • Unlawfully detain someone: An unlawful detention occurs when an officer does not have the individual’s consent or a reason to suspect someone of committing or attempting to commit a crime.
  • Unlawfully arrest someone: Before law enforcement officials can make an arrest, they need a warrant or probable cause. Probable cause means that a reasonable person, after considering the facts, would believe that a particular person has committed a crime. Absent either a warrant or probable cause, an arrest is unlawful.
  • Use unreasonable force: Police officers are only allowed to use the amount of force necessary to detain or arrest someone. They may also use force if doing so is required to prevent serious bodily injury or death to themselves or others.

Your Legal Rights During Interactions with Law Enforcement Officials

Being detained or arrested can be a very intimidating experience. Knowing your legal rights when the situation arises is vital for avoiding any additional charges and pursuing a favorable outcome in your case.

If a police officer stops you for questioning or tries to arrest you, the first thing to do is remain calm. Understandably, keeping your cool can be difficult, as this can be a stressful time. But resisting an urge to confront the officer can prevent you from doing anything that could hurt your case.

Next, politely ask the officer whether you are free to leave. If they say yes, you can walk away. If they say no, you can ask about the reason for your arrest.

During your interaction with the police, exercise your right to remain silent. Aside from giving basic personal identification information and asking about the detention or arrest, you do not have to say anything to law enforcement officials and cannot face any penalties for not answering their questions. You must directly tell the officer that you are keeping quiet.

Contact an Attorney About Your Case

If you are being arrested, refrain from resisting or arguing with the officer, as this can lead to further criminal charges against you. Remember that an arrest does not mean that you are guilty of a crime. Instead, it means that officers have reason to further their investigation. If you believe the action against you is unfounded, a criminal defense lawyer can help ensure that your side of the story is heard and that law enforcement officials have followed the correct procedures when taking you into custody.

Get started on your Los Angeles case by contacting Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP at (800) 462-7160.