California Penal Code § 148(a)(1) PC makes it a crime willfully to resist, delay or obstruct peace officers or EMTs who are performing their official duties. Doing so is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in county jail and fines of up to $1000.00.
Officers will often write up the citation as:
- “PC 148,”
- “148 PC” or
- “148(a)(1) PC“
as abbreviations for the California Penal Code.
Examples of resisting arrest
- Struggling with police officers as they try to apply handcuffs
- Taunting EMTs as they try to provide medical assistance to a victim
- Giving false information (such as a false name) to the authorities during questioning
There are several legal defenses that you can raise if accused of a crime under Penal Code 148. These include showing that you:
- imprisonment in county jail for up to one year, and/or
- a maximum fine of $1,000.
In lieu of jail time, a judge may award misdemeanor (or summary probation).
Our California criminal defense attorneys will explain the following in this article:
- 1. What constitutes “resisting arrest” in California?
- 2. What are the best defenses to a resisting arrest charge?
- 3. What is the sentence for Penal Code 148(a)(1) PC?
- 4. Are there similar crimes?
- Additional reading
1. What constitutes “resisting arrest” in California?
Penal Code 148 a 1 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime to willfully resist or obstruct a police officer, or EMT, in the performance of their official duties.1
In order to make a case, the prosecutor must prove that you did three things:
- willfully resisted, delayed, or obstructed a police officer or EMT,
- did so when the arresting officer/EMT was engaged in the performance of their official duties, and
- knew, or should have known, that the officer/EMT was engaged in their official duties.2
Many people are aware that resisting arrest includes a person trying to obstruct the police in lawfully taking them into custody. Though the crime also includes a wide range of other activities, such as:
- interfering with a police officer’s travel to the scene of a crime or accident,
- obstructing the authorities from interviewing a witness of a crime,
- trying to interfere with police while they are monitoring a suspect in custody.
Note that a college campus security officer is not a “public officer” or “police officer” for purposes of this statute.3
Also note that you commit an act willfully when you do it willingly or on purpose. It is not required that you intend to
- break the law,
- hurt someone else, or
- gain any advantage.4
2. What are the best defenses to a resisting arrest charge?
Here at Shouse Law Group, we have represented literally thousands of people facing charges for resisting arrest and related crimes. In my experience, the following three defenses have proven very effective with prosecutors, judges, and juries:
2.1. You did not willfully resist arrest
A key element of PC 148 is that you acted “willfully.” Arguments we have used to show that our clients did not act on purpose are:
- The incident was an accident – for example, you fell down, which the police interpreted as resisting arrest.
- You were suffering from a medical episode – for example if you are having a seizure, the police could misconstrue that as resisting arrest.
- You genuinely thought you were following the police’s directions – for example, you misheard the police, and the police thought you were intentionally defying their instructions.
Note that in cases where the police used illegal, excessive force, it may be a defense that you acted in lawful self-defense as long as you fought back only with reasonable force.
2.2. You were falsely accused
Officers are often quick to charge you with resisting arrest merely because they do not like your attitude or because you ask for an explanation as to why you are being arrested. Moreover, police may use the resisting arrest charge to try to justify or cover up
Example: LAPD officers confront and detain African American man for “loitering” near a drug house. They order the suspect to take his hand out of his pockets and place them on the police cruiser. “Officers, I didn’t do anything. Why are you stopping me?” he protests several times. The officers don’t like his attitude. So they tackle him, strike him several times with their batons, and handcuff him. Now he has bodily injuries to his face and his back. The officers need to explain why they arrested him and why they injured him. So they charge him with resisting arrest, claiming, “The suspect became combative, took a fighting stance and threatened the officers.”
In many cases we have shown that the officers were being untruthful. Evidence we rely on includes:
- witness statements,
- police bodycam footage, and
- the officers’ personnel files which may reveal a history of misconduct (which we obtain by bringing a Pitchess motion)
Once we can show that the police’s story does not hold up, the D.A. may agree to drop your case.
2.3. The police had no probable cause to arrest you
We have had many cases where our clients were stopped or arrested for violating PC 148 – and there was no probable cause. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says that police must have probable cause before they can make a lawful arrest.
In these situations, we would ask the court to exclude from the case any evidence obtained following the improper stop/arrest. This exclusion could result in the dismissal or reduction of charges.
Ultimately, prosecutors have the burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If they fail to meet this burden, the case should be dropped.
3. What is the sentence for Penal Code 148(a)(1) PC?
A violation of PC 148 is charged as a misdemeanor in California.5 The crime is punishable by:
- imprisonment in county jail for up to one year, and/or
- a maximum fine of $1,000.
In our experience, judges are usually open to granting misdemeanor (or summary probation) instead of jail.
Note that the L.A. County D.A.’s office generally does not prosecute resisting arrest cases unless:
- you have been a repeat offender within the last 24 months;
- you used physical force against the officer; or
- The charge is filed in connection with another offense that the LADA typically does prosecute.6
4. Are there similar crimes?
4.1. Assault – PC 240
Penal Code 240 PC is the California statute that makes assault a crime.
Per PC 240, a “simple assault” is an attempt to commit a violent injury on someone else.7
A prosecutor must prove four things to successfully convict you of this crime. These are that:
- you did something that was likely to result in the use of force against someone else,
- you did so willfully,
- you were aware of facts that would lead a reasonable person to believe that this act would directly and probably result in force being applied to the other person, and
- when you acted, you had the ability to apply force to the other person.
A violation of this statute is a misdemeanor. The crime is punishable by:
- imprisonment in the county jail for up to six months, and/or
- a maximum fine of $1,000.8
4.2. Battery on a peace officer – PC 243b and 243c
These laws define the crime as willfully and unlawfully touching a peace officer or other protected official in a harmful or offensive manner, while the officer is engaged in the performance of their duties.9
You violate PC 243 if you commit the battery and knew, or reasonably should have known, that the “victim” was a peace officer or other protected person with official authority performing their duties.10
A violation of this statute is a misdemeanor in California. The offense is punishable by:
- imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year, and/or
- a maximum fine of $2,000.11
4.3. Resisting an executive officer – PC 69
Penal Code 69 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to resist an executive officer.
You violate state law under PC 69 if you do either of the following:
- willfully and unlawfully attempt by threats or violence to deter or prevent an executive officer from performing a lawful duty, or
- use force or violence to resist an executive officer in the performance of their lawful duties.12
Examples of executive officers include (but are not limited to):
- police officers, sheriffs, California Highway Patrol officers,
- government prosecutors and defense attorneys, and
- other elected officials.
A violation of PC 69 is a wobbler offense, meaning that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
If charged as a misdemeanor, the crime is punishable by up to one year in county jail.
If charged as a felony, a felony conviction is punishable by imprisonment in prison for:
- 16 months,
- two years, or
- three years.
For more information, read our related articles:
- Evading police in a vehicle (VC 2800.1)
- Recording public officers (PC 148g)
- Providing false ID to the police (PC 148.9)
- Wearing a mask/disguise to evade police (PC 185)
- Disobeying a police officer (VC 2800)
- Assault on a police officer (PC 241)
- Police misconduct – how to bring a lawsuit
- Is it illegal to lie to police?
- What does “resisting, delaying or obstructing an officer” mean?
- Do I have to identify myself to police in California?
- California Penal Code 148 PC. The language of the code section reads as follows:148. (a) (1) Every person who willfully resists, delays, or obstructs any public officer, peace officer, or an emergency medical technician, as defined in Division 2.5 (commencing with Section 1797) of the Health and Safety Code, in the discharge or attempt to discharge any duty of his or her office or employment, when no other punishment is prescribed, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail not to exceed one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.(2) Except as provided by subdivision (d) of Section 653t, every person who knowingly and maliciously interrupts, disrupts, impedes, or otherwise interferes with the transmission of a communication over a public safety radio frequency shall be punished by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.
(b) Every person who, during the commission of any offense described in subdivision (a), removes or takes any weapon, other than a firearm, from the person of, or immediate presence of, a public officer or peace officer shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail not to exceed one year or pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.
(c) Every person who, during the commission of any offense described in subdivision (a), removes or takes a firearm from the person of, or immediate presence of, a public officer or peace officer shall be punished by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.
(d) Except as provided in subdivision (c) and notwithstanding subdivision (a) of Section 489, every person who removes or takes without intent to permanently deprive, or who attempts to remove or take a firearm from the person of, or immediate presence of, a public officer or peace officer, while the officer is engaged in the performance of his or her lawful duties, shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail not to exceed one year or pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.
In order to prove a violation of this subdivision, the prosecution shall establish that the defendant had the specific intent to remove or take the firearm by demonstrating that any of the following direct, but ineffectual, acts occurred:
(1) The officer’s holster strap was unfastened by the defendant.
(2) The firearm was partially removed from the officer’s holster by the defendant.
(3) The firearm safety was released by the defendant.
(4) An independent witness corroborates that the defendant stated that he or she intended to remove the firearm and the defendant actually touched the firearm.
(5) An independent witness corroborates that the defendant actually had his or her hand on the firearm and tried to take the firearm away from the officer who was holding it.
(6) The defendant’s fingerprint was found on the firearm or holster.
(7) Physical evidence authenticated by a scientifically verifiable procedure established that the defendant touched the firearm.
(8) In the course of any struggle, the officer’s firearm fell and the defendant attempted to pick it up.
(e) A person shall not be convicted of a violation of subdivision (a) in addition to a conviction of a violation of subdivision (b), (c), or (d) when the resistance, delay, or obstruction, and the removal or taking of the weapon or firearm or attempt thereof, was committed against the same public officer, peace officer, or emergency medical technician. A person may be convicted of multiple violations of this section if more than one public officer, peace officer, or emergency medical technician are victims.
(f) This section shall not apply if the public officer, peace officer, or emergency medical technician is disarmed while engaged in a criminal act.
(g) The fact that a person takes a photograph or makes an audio or video recording of a public officer or peace officer, while the officer is in a public place or the person taking the photograph or making the recording is in a place he or she has the right to be, does not constitute, in and of itself, a violation of subdivision (a), nor does it constitute reasonable suspicion to detain the person or probable cause to arrest the person.
- People v. Simons (1996), 42 Cal. App. 4th 1100. See also People v. Allen (1980) 109 Cal.App.3d 981. See also People v. Lopez (1986) 188 Cal.App.3d 592. See also In re Muhammed C. (2002) 95 Cal.App.4th 1325. See also People v. Gonzalez (1990) 51 Cal.3d 1179.
- In re M.M. (2009), 177 Cal. App. 4th 1339.
- 2 CALCRIM 2656 – Resisting Peace Officer, Public Officer, or EMT (Pen. Code, § 148(a)). See also In re Bacon (1966) 240 Cal.App.2d 34. See also People v. Green (1997) 51 Cal.App.4th 1433. See also People v. Quiroga (1993) 16 Cal.App.4th 961. See also People v. Brown (1988) 46 Cal.3d 432. See also People v. Castain (1981) 122 Cal.App.3d 138. See also People v. Olguin (1981) 119 Cal.App.3d 39. See also People v. White (1980) 101 Cal.App.3d 161.
- California Penal Code 148 PC.
- See same; LADA Special Directive 20-07. See also People v. Moreno (1973) 32 Cal.App.3d Supp. 1.
- California Penal Code 240 PC.
- California Penal Code 241 PC.
- California Penal Code 243 PC.
- Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instruction (“CALCRIM”) 945 – Battery Against Peace Officer (Pen. Code, §§ 242, 243(b), (c)(2)).
- California Penal Code 243 PC.
- In re Manuel G. (1997) 16 Cal. 4th 805, 814.