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Charges for Resisting Arrest

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When a police officer stops you or places you under arrest, there are several laws that govern your rights during the process. If you attempt to flee or fight against the officer during this encounter, you could face additional charges for resisting arrest. Penalties for resisting arrest vary depending on your actions, but these charges can add jail time and fines onto your record.

What Happens If You Resist Arrest in Washington State?

Under Washington statute RCW 9A.76.040, a person is guilty of resisting arrest if he or she intentionally prevents or attempts to prevent a peace officer from arresting him or her. Resisting arrest is a misdemeanor crime punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or fines up to $1,000. A peace officer includes any appointed city, county, or state law enforcement officer, including certain off-duty officers.

A related crime involves obstructing a law enforcement officer, or any state, federal, or public officers responsible for enforcing the law. Under Washington law, you cannot willfully hinder, delay, or obstruct a law enforcement officer from performing his or her duties. For example, you cannot provide false information or identification to an officer in order to avoid arrest. This crime is a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and/or fines up to $5,000.

Resisting arrest charges may increase to a felony if any aggravating factors are present, such as assaulting or disarming an officer. For example, if you attempt to flee an arrest, you may receive a misdemeanor charge. However, if you use force to resist the arrest, you could face charges for assault in the third degree, which is a class C felony. These crimes are punishable by up to five years in jail and/or a fine up to $10,000.

Possible Defenses for Resisting Arrest Charges

Facing charges for resisting an arrest can be a nerve-wracking experience. However, there may be several defenses you can apply to your case to reduce or dismiss these charges.

  • Self-defense: Police officers have the right to use a proportionate amount of force to accomplish an arrest. However, if the police officer uses excessive force or acts violently without justification, you have the right to protect yourself. The officer must have been the first person to use violence for this defense to apply. In addition, you must not continue to use violence if you subdue the officer.
  • Intentionality: The law clarifies that an arrestee must have intentionally prevented or attempted to prevent an officer from completing the arrest to face these charges. However, arrests are overwhelming, high-stress situations. It is possible that you did not intend to resist arrest, but the responding officers misinterpreted your actions, or that you did not have any reason to believe you were under arrest at the time of the alleged resistance.
  • Lack of knowledge or self-identification: You must have reason to know that the person attempting to arrest you is a peace officer in order to face penalties for resisting arrest. If the arresting officer was in plain clothes, off duty, and did not identify himself or herself as a peace officer at the time of the arrest, you may be able to use this defense.

If you are facing criminal charges, including charges for resisting arrest, it is important to contact a defense lawyer as soon as possible. Your attorney will understand the defense strategies and laws necessary to fight for your best possible outcome. After your arrest, contact your attorney for assistance.

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