Resisting arrest is against the law in North Carolina. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t necessarily have to be physically assaulting or running from a law enforcement officer to be charged with this crime. The statute is much broader than that, so the behavior you might think is harmless could land you in trouble.
Hiring an aggressive criminal defense attorney is the first step to fighting a resisting arrest charge. Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, understands the burden of proof necessary for a conviction. We can explain your legal options and work to have the charges dismissed or reduced.
How Resisting Arrest Is Defined in North Carolina
North Carolina’s criminal statutes define resisting arrest as “resisting, delaying, or obstructing an officer” (RDO). You can be charged with an RDO offense if you willfully and unlawfully resist, delay, or obstruct a law enforcement officer in carrying out, or trying to carry out, their lawful duties.
The statute is quite broad, and that’s by design. The legislature does not want people making it harder for the police to do their job. So broad powers are given to law enforcement to carry out their duties – such as arresting people, investigating crimes, and generally enforcing the law – free from outside interference.
The problem, however, is that many behaviors or activities can easily fall into this definition. Fortunately, the law is not limitless and there are some specific elements the prosecution must prove. They include:
- The victim is a public officer. This usually means a police officer, but it could be another law enforcement officer. Also included in the definition are individuals you might not think are public officers, like certain court officials.
- The defendant knew that the victim is a public officer. The defendant must have known, or should reasonably have known, that the victim is an officer. Often this means the victim has displayed a badge, worn a uniform, or notified the defendant he or she is an officer.
- The victim was carrying out his or her duties as an officer, or attempting to. This typically takes the form of making an arrest or trying to make an arrest. The defendant may be the person who is being arrested or otherwise involved with the officer, but this doesn’t have to be the case. This covers any lawful duty being carried out by the officer.
- The defendant intentionally or willfully resisted, delayed, or obstructed the officer. This element requires knowledge on the part of the defendant. It also requires that the defendant acted without legal justification, authority, or excuse.
Examples of Resisting Arrest
Fleeing an officer – on foot, by vehicle, or otherwise – is what many people think of when it comes to resisting arrest. It can also include fighting or struggling with an officer, like pulling your arms away or shoving. But any sort of physical behavior can be interpreted as resistance. Raising your hands at the officer, turning away from the officer while he or she addresses you, and other seemingly minor behaviors could get you in trouble.
The same is true if you interfere with an officer arresting another person. Placing your hands on the officer, blocking him or her from advancing on someone, or delaying the officer in doing his or her job can be included in North Carolina’s broad RDO definition.
Not all resistance has to be physical, however. Some defendants are charged with an RDO offense for giving false information to the police. Others are charged because they won’t accept a traffic ticket or for verbally confronting an officer in a way that slows down or makes it harder for them to carry out their duties.
How Is Resisting Arrest Charged?
Resisting arrest is charged as a class 2 misdemeanor. If convicted, you will be facing the following potential punishments:
- A fine of up to $1,000
- One to 60 days in jail
- Probation and community service
A prior criminal record will affect your sentence. Also, if your resistance amounted to physical violence, you could be looking at a more serious charge of assaulting an officer.
Consequences of a Conviction
Even if your sentence is relatively light, you will have a criminal record if convicted of resisting arrest. This will make it more difficult to obtain or maintain a job or housing. If you’re a student, you may also be subjected to disciplinary actions from your college or university. Some jobs require a clean background check, and a conviction will be a major and possibly disqualifying blemish.
The fact is, any criminal conviction will have far-reaching consequences long after your court date. You can’t afford to handle a resisting arrest charge without experienced legal representation.
Defenses to Resisting Arrest
These are some of the possible defenses to a resisting arrest charge:
- The victim is not a law enforcement or another public officer
- The victim didn’t know, and couldn’t reasonably have known, the victim is a public officer
- The actions carried out by the victim were unlawful (e.g. unlawful arrest) or excessive
- Lack of intent to resist arrest
- Acting in self-defense
- Prosecution’s failure to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt
How Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, Can Help You
The resisting arrest charge is broad. Our team understands the law on resisting arrest and what the prosecution must show. We will review the allegations against you and go on the offensive against weaknesses in the state’s case. Where possible, we will ask the judge to dismiss the charges. A plea deal or reduction in charges are other options.
Contact Our Carteret County Resisting Arrest Attorney
The possible consequences of a resisting arrest charge are serious. That’s why you need the dedicated team at Hancock Law Firm, PLLC. We’re available right away to help you, so call us today.