What Does Resisting, Delaying or Obstructing an Officer Mean?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Jan 02, 2019 | 0 Comments

resisting arrest crime california
Resisting arrest is a crime in California

California Penal Code 148(a)(1) PC is the California statute that defines the crime of “resisting arrest.”

According to this statute, it is a crime for a person to

  • resist,
  • delay, or
  • obstruct

a California law enforcement officer or emergency medical technician (EMT) while he is performing, or attempting to perform, his official duties.

Examples of Penal Code 148(a)(1) violations include:

  • a man fights off a police officer whom is trying to put handcuffs on him.
  • a woman gives police officers a false name when the officers are questioning her about committing a crime.
  • a motorist purposely drives slowly in front of an EMT vehicle that has its sirens on and is racing towards the scene of an accident.

A person guilty of resisting arrest, or delaying or obstructing an officer, is charged with a misdemeanor. The penalties for the offense include:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year; and/or,
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.

When is a person guilty of resisting, delaying or obstructing an officer?

California's resisting arrest laws include a wider range of behavior than just a person resisting arrest. While resisting an officer may be grounds for a conviction under PC 148(a)(1), so can delaying or obstructing an officer or an EMT.

In order to successfully convict a person of a crime under Penal Code 148(a)(1), a prosecutor must prove three elements. These are:

  1. there was a police officer or EMT that was lawfully performing, or attempting to perform, his duties,
  2. the defendant willfully resisted, obstructed, or delayed him in performing, or attempting to perform, those duties, and,
  3. the defendant knew or reasonably should have known that the person was an officer or EMT engaged in those duties.

The above mentioned “duties” definitely include an officer arresting a person. But they can also include:

  • an officer or EMT traveling to the scene of a crime,
  • an officer interviewing a person while investigating a crime, and/or
  • an EMT monitoring a criminal suspect who is in custody.

What are the penalties if a person is guilty under California Penal Code 148(a)(1) PC?

The crime of resisting arrest is a misdemeanor offense. The penalties may include:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year; and/or,
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.

Please note that in lieu of jail time a judge may order a defendant to misdemeanor probation. This is also called “summary” or “informal” probation.

Are any legal defenses available if a person is accused of resisting, delaying or obstructing an officer?

Luckily, there are legal defenses that a person can raise if accused of a crime under PC 148(a)(1). A good defense can often get a charge reduced or even dismissed. Please note, though, that it is critical for an accused to hire an attorney to get the most effective defense.

Three common defenses to Penal Code 148(a)(1) accusations are that the accused was:

  1. wrongfully arrested,
  2. falsely accused, and/or
  3. acting in self-defense.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.


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