The Crime of Resisting Arrest in California - PC 148(a)
Penal Code Section 148(a) PC defines the California crime of resisting or obstructing a police officer or emergency medical technician in their performance of their duties, which is most commonly known as “resisting arrest.”
This common nomenclature evokes images of suspects physically struggling with police officers as they attempt to place the suspect under arrest or put them in handcuffs.
While this conduct could certainly be punishable under PC 148, a significantly broader category of other conduct can also lead to a prosecution for “resisting.”
We begin with the language of the statute. Penal Code 148(a) defines as criminal any conduct which:
- delays, or
- obstructs any public officer, peace officer, or emergency medical technician,
- who is in the course of their official duties.
Immediately, we can see that “resisting arrest” under California law is neither confined to interactions with the police nor to what we would typically think of as resisting, which is usually thought of as a physical act.
To get a more thorough understanding of this statute, our Los Angles criminal defense lawyers will provide a more detailed review below.
What Factors Must Be Proven for a PC 148(a) Resisting Arrest Conviction?
As stated, PC 148(a) makes it a crime for someone to willfully resist or obstruct a police officer. In order to obtain a conviction, the prosecutor must prove several factors that are known as the “elements of the crime:”
- you “willfully” resisted, delayed, or obstructed a police officer;
- when you acted, the police were engaged in performing their duties;
- you knew, or should have known, the police were performing their duty.
The term “willfully” simply means the act was specifically on purpose - not an accident.
Examples of Penal Code 148(a) Resisting Arrest in California
suspected DUI suspect
Several hypotheticals will illustrate the coverage of the statute. Suppose our defendant has been pulled over for a suspected DUI.
After completing field sobriety tests, poorly, and blowing into a breathalyzer which indicates an extremely high level of alcohol in the defendant's blood, the defendant, realizing he will be arrested at any moment, tries to flee on foot. The officers at the scene chase him and catch him.
Once caught, the defendant makes no attempt to struggle or fight and allows himself to be handcuffed. He is booked at the station without further incident.
While the defendant did not physically fight with the officers, and certainly did not harm anyone, he is nevertheless guilty of a violation of PC 148(a) for delaying and obstructing the officers' ability to complete the traffic investigation and arrest the defendant.
obstructing an emergency medical technician
Even less physical conduct can qualify under the resisting statute. Suppose in the same scenario, the defendant notices an emergency medical technician tending to a third party who was injured in a traffic collision.
As the EMT attempts to render aid, the defendant approaches him and begins berating the EMT, distracting him from his task.
The defendant is arguably also guilty under PC 148(a) for obstructing the EMT's ability to carry out his job.
providing false information to police
Similarly, defendants have in the past been charged with resisting arrest under Penal Code 148(a) for providing false information to law enforcement.
While false reporting is also punishable under other provisions of the Penal Code, if the false information delays the officer's ability to complete an investigation, a charge under PC 148(a) may be appropriate. This type of crime is a form of obstruction of justice.
This is one of many reasons why most criminal defense attorneys advise clients not to make any statements to law enforcement.
What are the Penalties for Resisting Arrest in California?
A violation of Penal Code Section 148 PC is always a misdemeanor under California law. The maximum punishment is:
- one year in county jail,
- a $1,000 fine plus penalties and assessments, or both imprisonment and a fine,
- informal summary probation.
In many cases, a defendant may be granted summary, or informal, probation on a violation of Penal Code 148 PC.
If the defendant successfully completes all of the obligations of probation and is not charged with a new offense during the period of probation, which is typically two to three years, the defendant can move the court to dismiss the case under California Penal Code Section 1203.4. This is commonly known as an “expungement.”
What Are the Related California Offenses for Resisting Arrest?
Penal Code 69 PC – resisting an executive officer,
Penal Code 148.5 PC – false report of a crime,
Penal Code 148.9 PC – false identification to police officer,
Penal Code 217.1(a) – assault on a public official,
Penal Code 240 PC – assault,
Penal Code 242 PC – battery,
Penal Code 243(b) PC – battery on a peace officer,
Vehicle Code 2800.1 VC – evading police,
Vehicle Code 2800.2 VC – felony reckless evading.
How Can I Fight PC 148 Resisting Arrest Charges?
Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers can use a wide range of strategies to fight your resisting arrest charges. Some common defenses include:
- lack of a willful act,
- unlawful arrest,
- officer was not performing their duties,
- lack of probable cause,
- false allegation.
Not a willful act
One of the most common defenses to a charge of resisting arrest include lack of a willful act. The prosecution must demonstrate that the defendant's conduct which resulted in delay or obstruction of a public officer, police officer, or EMT was willful.
A mere accident does not qualify. Neither does inadvertent conduct. That said, the actual resisting, delaying, and obstructing does not have to be the intended result of the defendant's conduct.
If the defendant willfully commits an act for another purpose other than resisting, delaying, or obstructing, but the result is that a public officer is delayed or obstructed, that is enough to qualify for conviction under Penal Code 148 PC.
Resisting arrest, by its very nature, is often charged in conjunction with other crimes. Adding a charge of resisting arrest to a case involving other charges is a significant detriment to defendants.
On a practical level, dismissing a resisting charge after it is filed may open up the police department to civil liability for excessive force, profiling, etc.
For that reason, many prosecutors are hesitant to dismiss a resisting charge under PC 148. Courts similarly view violations of PC 148(a) as serious crimes, despite their misdemeanor nature.
Contact Eisner Gorin LLP If Charged with Resisting Arrest
If you, or someone you know, has been arrested for, is charged with, or is planning to take a case of resisting arrest under California Penal Code 148 PC to trial, contact our experienced team of Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys for an initial consultation.
Through the process of prefiling intervention, we may be able to negotiate with law enforcement and the prosecutor to avoid the filing of formal criminal charges before court.
Eisner Gorin LLP is a top-ranked criminal defense law firm representing clients throughout Southern California, including LA County, Ventura County, Orange County Riverside, San Bernardino, and the San Fernando Valley.
Our office is located in West Los Angeles at 1875 Century Park E #705, Los Angeles, CA 90067.
Our main office is next to the Van Nuys Superior Court at 14401 Sylvan St #112 Van Nuys, CA 91401. Contact out firm for an immediate consultation at (877) 781-1570.