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What Qualifies As Resisting Arrest In Arizona?

Oct 20, 2023 | Criminal

The experience of being arrested can cause an individual to feel an immense amount of terror and panic, leading to their “fight-or-flight” reflexes being triggered. It may be tempting for them – and even for others close to them – to oppose, obstruct, or even resist the arrest. Attempting to evade or prevent a law enforcement officer from conducting an arrest is a crime in Arizona, and will lead to criminal charges being filed. 

In this blog, we’ll be going over how the law defines resisting arrest, what it may look like, and what the outcome of being charged with this crime could be. 

What Is The Legal Definition Of Resisting Arrest?

According to Arizona Revised Statutes Section 13-2508, resisting arrest is described as committing the crime of intentionally preventing or attempting to prevent a law enforcement officer from conducting an arrest. There are many ways a person can commit this act, such as using or threatening to use physical force, creating a significant risk of bodily harm to the law enforcement officer, or employing passive resistance. 

A person can passively or actively resist arrest in Arizona. In most interactions with law enforcement, the officer will issue explicit instructions – such as to put both hands on the steering wheel, exiting the vehicle, etc. – that must be followed, and choosing not to follow these instructions could be seen as passive resistance to arrest. Passive resistance is a non-violent action made with the goal of hindering, delaying, or stopping the arrest. Other examples include running away from officers, hiding from officers, or making the body go limp to make the arrest more difficult. Typically, acts like these result in a Class 1 Misdemeanor charge. 

Consequently, a person can also engage in active resistance, which means they either use or threaten physical force against an officer, create a risk of their injury, or a combination of both. Some examples include kicking, punching, or pushing officers as they attempt to make the arrest, running out into a busy street when officers are giving chase, using an object as a weapon against officers, and more.

Active resistance could result in Class 6 Felony charges, in addition to possible additional aggravated assault charges if the individual is found guilty of threatening or using physical force against the officer, whether the use of force resulted in an injury or not. 

What Factors Contribute To Resisting Arrest?

There are many variables that could lead to a person attempting to resist arrest, such as:

  • Fear and misunderstanding – it’s natural for a person to be fearful of the consequences of an arrest, especially if they are unaware of their rights or don’t have a solid grasp of how the legal system works. They may also simply misunderstand the situation and not realize they are being arrested or the reasons behind it. 
  • Emotional and physical reactions – once again, it’s natural for humans’ instinctual “fight-or-flight” responses to take over in instances of high stress, panic, anger, or confusion, leading to a lack of rational thinking in the heat of the moment. 
  • The influence of substances – alcohol or drug use (including prescription drugs) can impair judgment and self-control, which could lead to a lack of comprehension of the situation and result in erratic behavior. Individuals under some sort of influence are more likely to resist arrest for these reasons. 
  • Miscommunications and language barriers – poor communication or lack of clear instructions from law enforcement officers can contribute to resistance, as can language barriers.
  • Mental health issues – it is possible for law enforcement to misinterpret behaviors related to a mental health condition as resistance.
  • And more. Additional factors such as peer pressure/social influences, cultural/societal influences, and previous negative experiences with law enforcement could increase the likelihood that an individual will resist their arrest.

What Defenses Can Be Used To Fight Resisting Arrest Charges?

There are several possible defenses that a skilled criminal defense attorney can use to try and get charges reduced or dropped altogether. In some cases, video and other social media evidence could be helpful to a defendant against resisting arrest charges, such as:

  • Surveillance footage from surrounding buildings or businesses
  • Bodycam and dashcam video
  • Eyewitness testimony
  • Law enforcement reports and testimony
  • Cellphone or other bystander videos
  • And more.

These forms of evidence could be used to prove that:

  1. The police officer failed to identify themself. If the defendant did not know that they were resisting arrest by a law enforcement officer – such as in instances that the officer was undercover or was plain-clothed – then the charges may be dropped. 
  2. There is a lack of evidence. An officer’s word is generally not enough to warrant charges, let alone a guilty verdict. Without sufficient forms of evidence, such as those listed above, charges will likely not hold up against you in court. 
  3. The defendant employed acts of self-defense against an officer exerting excessive force during the arrest. Officers are prohibited from using excessive force to place an individual under arrest, so if bodycam or dashcam footage proves that they did, the defendant may have had a right to resist arrest in order to protect themselves. If charges are dropped under these circumstances, there may even be grounds for a civil suit against the officer. 
  4. There was a lack of intent. If the defendant does something while interacting with the officer with no reason to believe they were under arrest, such as pull away or take a few steps, then there is a lack of intent that they were attempting to resist arrest.
  5. The defendant merely argued with, or criticized, the officer. This is a common defense in passive resistance cases because it is not substantial enough to warrant resisting arrest charges. 

Call Alatorre Law If You’ve Been Charged

If you’re facing charges of resisting arrest, call our firm now to put yourself in the best possible position for beating the prosecution. Our lead attorney, Javier Alatorre, has nearly 20 years of experience in defending criminal charges and achieving optimum results for clients. Call to schedule your free initial consultation and learn more about how we can give you an advantage with your case.  

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