How many times have you heard of the phrase “you're under arrest”? Or better yet, what do you do the moment an officer says that to you? Because Hollywood has overdramatized this scenario way too much, it may have come to the point where we, as average citizens, developed some misconceptions about how we should react once we are put under arrest. Unfortunately, in real-life, fist fighting with a police officer is not as daring or bold as movies make it seem. If anything, this puts the law enforcer in harm's way and you in legal complications.
Under California Penal Code PC 69, it is unlawful for any individual to use any amount of force or violence to resist an arrest by a police officer. However, this statute is not limited to physical altercations with the cops. It also includes wilful interruptions made to prevent a law enforcement official from conducting his/her duties. Take note that for an act to qualify as an offense under PC 69, it must include the following elements:
- Wilful intent;
- Violence or force used against an officer; and/or
- Disruption of lawful conduct.
To be more precise, here are some examples that demonstrate a violation against PC 69:
- You and your roommate are at the mall to buy some food. Suddenly, your roommate decides to take a bottle of beer and strategically hides it inside his sweater. Upon exiting the shop, you are greeted by a police officer who asks if you or your friend took something they shouldn't have from the store. Rather than confess the crime to the cop, you tackle the police officer to the ground to allow your friend to escape.
- The mother of a defendant, who is currently being tried at court, deliberately makes a scene and damages state property in order to delay the prosecution. She has been requested repeatedly by authorities to leave the room, but she refuses to do so.
- An 18-year-old is pulled over by the cop for going beyond the speed limit. Their confrontation becomes heated and the driver decides to drive away. However, he makes sure to hit the cop with his vehicle on his way to escape.
Meanwhile, there is a multitude of laws that are closely related to PC 69. For instance, cases of assault and battery, evading an officer, false report of a crime, and even false identification to a police officer may be involved. Each of these has its own respective penalties and it is upon the court's complete jurisdiction to impose them on top of the punishments cited in PC 69.
Some people confuse this law with California Penal Code PC 148, as both of them describe resisting arrest or obstructing police officers or EMT from effectively executing their tasks as a crime. However, the key distinction between PC 148 and PC 69 is the degree of the consequences. We will discuss that below.
Penalties for Resisting an Executive Officer
When a person threatens the safety of the police officer or impedes him/her from doing his/her job by employing violent acts, then the individual is likely guilty under PC 69. A conviction may either fall as a misdemeanor or a felony, wherein:
- A misdemeanor carries the penalties of a maximum of one year in county jail, summary probation, or a fine of up to $10,000.
- A felony carries the penalties of a maximum of three years in county jail, felony probation, or a fine of up to $10,000.
Generally, when violence or threat of violence is not made while resisting arrest, it is most likely a case of PC 148. It is less serious as compared to the previous penal code wherein a conviction can only be categorized as a misdemeanor. The consequences will be:
- A maximum sentence of one year in jail, and/or
- A fine of up to $1,000.
Legal Defenses Against Resisting an Executive Officer Lawsuit
It is arguably very difficult to win against this type of lawsuit especially if there is concrete evidence that you did inflict an injury to the police officer. However, all hope is not lost especially if you have a competent and experienced criminal defense lawyer to handle your case. It is best to discuss the possible defenses you can use for your case, but as general information, we'll list the plausible legal defenses below:
- You were acting out of self-defense;
- The officer was unlawfully detaining or arresting you or someone else;
- The person you interfered with is technically not an “executive officer”;
- You did not willfully or deliberately intend to disrupt the police officer; and
- You were falsely accused.
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