Earlier this month, 20-year-old Ventura resident Juan Plascencia was charged with felony resisting arrest after allegedly punching a police officer during a pursuit on foot through the campus of St. Bonaventure High School.  When the officer caught up to Plascencia near the intersection of Dos Caminos Avenue and Telegraph Road, a “violent struggle” reportedly occurred.  It’s not uncommon to see stories in the news about people who “resisted arrest,” but you don’t need to physically fight an officer to find yourself charged with this crime.  A Ventura criminal defense lawyer at Bamieh & De Smeth explains some basic information about how resisting arrest is defined in California – and the penalties that can result from a conviction.

What is the Legal Definition of Resisting Arrest Under California Law?

For the answer to this question, we need to look at Chapter 7 of the California Penal Code, which deals with “offenses against public justice,” such as tampering with evidence.  Within this chapter, Cal. Penal Code § 148 defines resisting arrest as “willfully resist[ing], delay[ing], or obstruct[ing] any… [police] officer… in the discharge or attempt to discharge any duty of his or her office or employment.”

In other words, it is illegal to hinder a police officer while he or she tries to carry out any of his or her lawful job duties, including duties other than performing an arrest.  That means even if a person is not actually being arrested, they could still be charged with resisting arrest for interfering with a police officer while he or she is trying, for example, to interview a suspect or inspect a crime scene.
It is not resisting arrest to film or photograph an officer, provided the officer is performing their job duties in a public place, and the person recording the footage has a lawful right to be in that place.  If someone you love was arrested or detained in Ventura for simply recording or photographing a police officer, you should contact a Ventura defense attorney immediately for assistance.

What Are the Criminal Consequences of Resisting a Police Officer?

Not only will resisting arrest make it more difficult to successfully defeat the underlying charges that led to the arrest – it is also a criminal offense in its own right.  However, in order for the defendant to be found guilty of resisting arrest, he or she must have acted “willfully,” or deliberately, as specified by the statute, which is an important element of the offense.
Resisting arrest is a type of crime called a “wobbler” in California, which simply means that it can be charged as a misdemeanor or, in more serious cases, as a felony, depending on the events that allegedly took place.  Plascencia, for example, was charged with resisting arrest at the felony level.  While resisting arrest is typically a misdemeanor, there are certain circumstances where it can be treated as a felony.
If a person resists arrest by the definition supplied above at Cal. Penal Code § 148(a)(1) – resisting, delaying, or obstructing a police officer – the offense is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $1,000 and/or up to one year in jail.  However, other sections of the same statute permit greater penalties for more serious crimes.  For example, under Cal. Penal Code § 148(c), taking an officer’s gun may result in felony charges, which carries a longer sentence.
On a related note, getting into a fight or using force with an officer may also lead to misdemeanor or felony battery charges (sometimes referred to as “assault and battery,” though they are actually separate crimes) under Cal. Penal Code §  243.  If charged as a misdemeanor, battery on a police officer may lead to a fine of up to $2,000 and/or up to one year in jail.  The penalties for felony battery on a police officer or peace officer in California can include a fine as great as $10,000 – five times more than the maximum misdemeanor fine – and a sentence of either 16 months, two years, or three years.

Were Your Rights Violated During an Arrest in Ventura or Santa Barbara?

The laws of California strive to protect police officers, but they also create protections for citizens who are lawfully exercising their Constitutional rights.  If you or one of your family members was accused of resisting arrest in Ventura County or Santa Barbara County, you deserve a vigorous defense of your case by a skilled and knowledgeable defense lawyer with over 22 years of experience handling misdemeanor and felony criminal charges in California.
The Oxnard defense lawyers at The Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC defend adults and juveniles in Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks, Lompoc, Goleta, Orcutt, Ojai, Santa Maria, and beyond.  Criminal charges we handle include DUI, drug possession, sex crimes, theft, and many other offenses.  Call our law offices today at (805) 643-5555 for a free legal consultation.