Penal Code 69 PC - Resisting an Executive Officer


Penal Code 69 PC is the California statute that defines the crime commonly referred to as "resisting an executive officer." This section makes it a crime for a person to use threats or violence either to:

  1. try to prevent an executive officer from performing his duties, or
  2. resist an executive officer in the performance of his duties.

PC 69 states:

“Every person who attempts, by means of any threat or violence, to deter or prevent an executive officer from performing any duty imposed upon the officer by law, or who knowingly resists, by the use of force or violence, the officer, in the performance of his or her duty, is punishable by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars...or by both such fine and imprisonment.”

This section is closely related to the crime of resisting arrest (Penal Code 148 PC). But 69 PC is a more serious offense because it involves the use of threats of violence. The section also applies to a broader set of executive duties than just making an arrest.

Examples

  • Mark tries to push a police officer, who is attempting to arrest his friend for petty theft.
  • Monique blocks the door to a city council member's office so that the official is denied access.
  • Paco “cuts the power” to a county courtroom so that a prosecutor cannot prove a criminal case against his brother.

Defenses

There are several legal defenses that a defendant can use to contest a charge brought under this statute. These include showing that:

  • the officer's conduct was unlawful,
  • the defendant was acting in self-defense, and/or
  • the “victim” was not an executive officer.

Penalties

A violation of this code section is a wobbler offense, meaning that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

If charged as a misdemeanor, the offense is punishable by:

If charged as a felony, the offense is punishable by:

Resisting an executive officer is not generally not a strike under California three strikes law. But it can be treated as a strike if the officer suffers great bodily injury or if a firearm or deadly weapon is used.1

Additional Consequences

Note that if a person is convicted of this crime, this conviction may lead to:

Also note that a person convicted of this offense can seek to have it expunged once he successfully completes:

  • probation, or
  • any jail time.

Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:

man facing harsh punishment from police officer
Penal Code 69 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to either try to prevent or resist an executive officer in the performance of his duties.

1. What is the legal definition of "resisting an executive officer"?

Penal Code 69 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to either:

  1. try to prevent an executive officer from performing his duties, or
  2. resist an executive officer in the performance of his duties.

Under a prevention offense, the prosecutor must prove two things to successfully convict a defendant under this code section. These are:

  1. the defendant willfully and unlawfully used violence, or a threat of violence, to try to prevent an officer from performing a lawful duty, and
  2. when the defendant acted, he did so intentionally.2

Under the resistance offense, the prosecutor must prove three things to successfully convict a defendant. These are:

  1. the defendant unlawfully used force or violence to resist an executive officer,
  2. when the defendant acted, the officer was performing a lawful duty, and
  3. when the defendant acted, he knew the officer was performing a duty.3

An executive officer is defined as a government official who may use his own discretion in performing his duties.4 Examples include:

  • police officers and sheriffs,
  • judges,
  • government prosecutors and defense attorneys, and
  • other elected officials.

Note that questions often arise under this code section on the meaning of:

  1. willfully,
  2. threat of violence,
  3. violence, and

1.1. Willfully

For purposes of this code section, someone commits an act willfully when he does it willingly or on purpose.5

1.2. Threat of violence

Under this statute, a threat may be oral or written and may be implied by a pattern of conduct or a combination of statements and conduct.6

Note that the defendant does not have to communicate the threat directly to the intended victim, but he may do so through someone else.7

Note also that it is not necessary, for a guilty conviction, that the person who communicates the threat to have the actual ability to carry out the threat.8

1.3. Violence

Force” and “violence,” under this code section mean any unlawful application of physical force against another person.

It is not necessary that the application causes harm or pain - the slightest touch is enough if done in a rude, angry, or offensive manner.9

2. Are there legal defenses?

A defendant can try to beat a charge under this code section with a good legal defense.

Three common defenses to 69 PC accusations involve asserting that:

  1. the officer's conduct was unlawful
  2. the accused acted in self-defense, and/or
  3. it was not an executive officer

2.1. The officer's conduct was unlawful

An officer must be performing some lawful duty in order for a defendant to be found guilty under this statute.10 This means a solid defense is for an accused to show that, while he may have interfered with an officer, that officer was acting unlawfully.

A peace officer is not lawfully performing his duties if he is:

  • unlawfully arresting or detaining someone, or
  • using unreasonable or excessive force in his or her duties.11

Note that if this defense is used, it is a smart idea for a defense attorney to file a Pitchess motion. This is a defendant's request for information contained in a law enforcement officer's personnel file. California criminal defense attorneys typically file this motion as part of the pretrial process when they believe their client has been a victim of police misconduct.

If it turns out that other people have accused the officer of misconduct, this could be used to impeach his or her credibility. This could lead to the charge being reduced or dismissed.

2.2. Self-defense

If a defendant resisted an executive officer who was using excessive force against him, the accused is entitled to exercise his right to defend himself in accordance with California's self-defense laws. These laws will protect a defendant's conduct as long as the force he used was reasonable under the circumstances.12

2.3. No executive officer

Recall that PC 69 only applies to executive officers. This means it is a valid defense for an accused to show that the alleged victim does not meet the definition of an executive officer.

man behind bars
A violation of this crime can lead to jail time and/or a fine

3. What are the penalties?

A violation of Penal Code 69 PC is a wobbler offense, meaning that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

If charged as a misdemeanor, the offense is punishable by:

  • misdemeanor (or summary) probation,
  • up to one year in county jail, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $10,000.13

If charged as a felony, the offense is punishable by:

  • felony (or formal) probation,
  • up to three years in county jail, and/or
  • a fine of up to $10,000.14

4. Are there immigration consequences?

A conviction of resisting an executive officer may result in negative immigration consequences.

United States immigration law says that some California criminal convictions can lead to a non-citizen being deported. Some convictions can also make an immigrant "inadmissible.”

A category of “deportable” or “inadmissible” crimes includes aggravated felonies.15

This means that:

  1. if a defendant is convicted of felony resisting an officer, and
  2. the facts show that the felony is an “aggravated” felony,

then the conviction may have detrimental immigration effects.

5. Can a person get an expungement after a conviction?

A person convicted under this code section can seek to get the conviction expunged.

An “expungement” releases an individual from virtually "all penalties and disabilities" arising out of the conviction.16

As a basic rule, PC 1203.4 authorizes an expungement for a misdemeanor or felony offense provided the applicant:

  1. successfully completed probation, and
  2. is not currently charged with a criminal offense, on probation for one, or serving a sentence for a crime.17

This means that once a defendant has successfully completed probation or served out a jail term, then he may begin trying to get the crime expunged.

6. Does a conviction affect a person's gun rights?

A conviction of violating 69 PC may have an effect on the convicted party's gun rights.

According to California law, convicted felons are prohibited from acquiring or possessing a gun in California.

This means that:

  1. if a prosecutor charges a violation of this code section as a felony, and
  2. the defendant gets convicted,

then that conviction would mean he would have to give up any gun ownership and possession rights.

7. Are there civil remedies for a false arrest?

There are instances when a person gets injured because an executive officer is acting unlawfully. In these situations, the injured party may be able to file a civil lawsuit for:

  1. false arrest, or
  2. a violation of United States Code Section 1983.

7.1. False Arrest

A false arrest is a type of wrongful arrest in which a person is detained without his or her consent and without legal authority. In the event that a false arrest occurs, an injured person can bring a civil lawsuit against the police and try to obtain compensation for any losses incurred.

To succeed in such a civil suit, the plaintiff must successfully prove the following:

  1. the police arrested the plaintiff without a warrant,
  2. the plaintiff was harmed, and
  3. the defendant officer's conduct was a substantial factor in causing that harm.18

A plaintiff bringing this suit may be able to obtain both:

  • compensatory damages, and
  • punitive damages.

7.2. Section 1983 Claims

United States Code Section 1983 is a law that allows people whose constitutional rights have been violated by government officials the chance to sue those officials in court.

The constitutional rights protected by Section 1983 include:

This means if an executive officer violates either of these rights of a party, that party may try to bring a civil suit to recover any damages the officer caused.

A plaintiff bringing this suit may be able to recover both:

  • compensatory damages, and
  • punitive damages.

8. Are there laws related to this statute?

There are three laws related to resisting an executive officer. These are:

  1. battery on a peace officer – PC 243,
  2. evading a police officer - VC 2800.1, and
  3. criminal threats – PC 422.

8.1. Battery on a peace officer – PC 243

Penal Code 243 PC makes it a crime for a person to:

  1. unlawfully harm or touch a police officer in an offensive manner, and
  2. to do so, while the officer is engaged in the performance of his duties.

Note that this offense applies only to police officers, while PC 69 applies to the broader topic of executive officers.

8.2. Evading a police officer – VC 2800.1

Vehicle Code 2800.1 VC makes it a crime for a person to willfully attempt to flee from a police officer who is pursuing that person in a car or on a bicycle.

Note that Penal Code 69 is much broader in scale since VC 2800.1 only applies to the limited fact pattern of a person trying to flee from a cop that is in a car or on a bike.

8.3. Criminal threats – PC 422

Penal Code 422 PC is the California statute that defines the crime of "criminal threats."

A "criminal threat" is made when:

  1. a defendant threatens to kill or physically harm another person, and
  2. that person is thereby placed in a state of reasonably sustained fear for his safety or for the safety of his immediate family.19

Note that the victim here does not have to be limited to an executive officer or a police officer.

Were you accused of resisting an executive officer in California? Call us for help…

resisting police criminal defense attorneys
Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime under Penal Code 69 PC, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We can be reached 24/7 at 855-LawFirm.

For similar accusations in Nevada, please see our article on: “Nevada's Law on ‘Interfering With a Public Officer' (NRS 197.090).”


Legal References:

  1. See Penal Code 1192.7 and 667.5(c). 

  2. CALCRIM No. 2651. Trying to Prevent an Executive Officer From Performing Duty. As to the second element, see also People v. Gutierrez (2002) 28 Cal. 4th 1083.

  3. CALCRIM No. 2652. Resisting an Executive Officer in Performance of Duty.

  4. See same.

  5. CALCRIM No. 2651.

  6. See same.

  7. See same.

  8. People v. Hines (1997) 15 Cal.4th 997.

  9. California Jury Instructions, Criminal CALJIC 16.141 -- Force and violence, defined.

  10. In re Manuel G (1997) 16 Cal.4th 805.

  11. CALCRIM No. 2651.

  12. Judicial Council Of California Criminal Jury Instruction 3470 -- Right to Self-Defense or Defense of Another (Non-Homicide).

  13. California Penal Code 69 PC.

  14. See same. See also California Penal Code 1170h PC.

  15. See INA 237 (a) (2) (A).

  16. California Penal Code 1203.4 PC.

  17. See same.

  18. CACI No. 1401. False Arrest Without Warrant by Peace Officer.

  19. California Penal Code 422 PC.

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