Resisting Arrest or Obstructing an Officer Penal Code PC 148

In 2021 alone, there were approximately 793,000 arrests in California. That’s nearly two arrests made every minute. Although many Californians believe that as long as they follow the law and stay out of trouble, they’ll never need to worry about being arrested, this isn’t always the case.

The truth of the matter is that many people are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time when they are suspected of a crime, and just because an arrest is made, it doesn’t mean that the person arrested is automatically guilty. In fact, in 2022, less than 62% of arrests resulted in a felony conviction in California, illustrating that, unfortunately, innocent people are arrested on the premises for committing serious crimes all the time.

In many situations, the arrest itself is the most stressful part of a long and frustrating litigation process. While the best course of action is almost always to remain silent (except to ask for a lawyer) the natural response for many people who are being handcuffed is to resist.

In this article, our law firm will highlight what it means to resist arrest or obstruct an officer, what determines a conviction, and what defense strategies our team of lawyers can take to defend your Penal Code 148 PC violation case in court.

Were you charged with resisting arrest in California? If so, you may be grappling with a range of emotions, from confusion to embarrassment to anger. Although we can’t undo what you have been through, we may be able to help make sense of your options. Contact Cherish Om online to learn more.

Resisting Arrest Penal Code 148 PC

Penal Code 148 PC, in general, describes the crime of resisting arrest or obstructing a police officer or an EMT from performing their duties. More specifically, the law says:

“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.

It also goes into detail about types of ways a person would be in violation of obstruction including attempting to remove a police officer’s weapon or attempting to disrupt an officer or EMT’s communication over a radio saying,

“(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.”

Finally, criminal law in California specifies that the act of trying to document a police officer with the use of a recording device or camera in a public place does not qualify as a violation of Penal Code 148 PC as long as the person recording is in a place where they’re allowed to be.

What Does Penal Code 148 PC Mean by “Willfully”?

The word “willfully” in regard to Penal Code 148 means that you broke the law on purpose, and didn’t do so accidentally or under duress. For example, if a police officer is chasing after a perpetrator and you jump in front of the officer to block him from catching up to to the perpetrator, you are in violation of obstructing the officer from making an arrest. However, if in the same situation, you accidentally trip the officer, you could not have broken the law because you didn’t obstruct the officer willfully.

According to Penal Code 148, you also have to know that the police officer or EMT is who they say they are. If a plain-clothes police officer attempts to arrest you and doesn’t identify themself as an officer of the law, you aren’t in violation of Penal Code 148 if you decide to resist arrest, because there was no way for you to have reasonably known that the person was who they said that they were.

How Does California Law Define “Resisted, Delayed, or Obstructed”?

California Penal Code Section 148 identifies the specific actions “resistance, delay, and obstruction” as the defining actions that constitute a violation of the law. The definitions of these terms are:

    • Resisted: Resisting arrest involves any physical or non-physical actions intended to oppose or hinder an officer’s attempt to make an arrest. Physical resistance may include struggling, pulling away, or similar reckless evading attempts. Non-physical resistance can involve verbal refusal to comply with lawful orders or other actions that create obstacles for the officer.

    • Delayed: Delaying an officer refers to actions that slow down or hinder the execution of their official duties. This can include intentionally providing false information, refusing to cooperate with lawful requests, or engaging in behaviors that prolong the time it takes for an officer to complete their tasks.

    • Obstructed: Obstructing an officer encompasses any actions that create obstacles or barriers to the officer’s ability to carry out their lawful duties. This can include physical obstructions, such as standing in the way or blocking the officer’s path, as well as non-physical obstructions like interference with an ongoing investigation or refusal to follow lawful orders.

If any of these actions took place while an officer or EMT was attempting to make an arrest or perform their lawful responsibilities, you could be found guilty of violating Penal Code 148 and as a result, instructed to pay a fine or serve time in county jail.

Who Is Considered an “Officer” or “Emergency Services Technician”?

A person identified as an “officer” under California Penal Code 148 is a public or law enforcement officer. This may include any of the following officials:

  • An FBI agent
  • A detective
  • A commissioner
  • Anyone who carries a badge and has the power to arrest someone

An emergency services technician (EMT) is a technician who operates an ambulance and responds to medical emergencies. Anyone who falls under these definitions is protected by Penal Code 148 from obstruction or resistance by the public.

What Constitutes “Resisting Arrest” in California?

Resisting arrest encompasses a range of actions that impede or hinder a law enforcement officer’s duties. These actions may include physical resistance, attempting to flee, providing false information, or refusing to comply with lawful orders.

It’s important to note that both active resistance, including pulling away, struggling, or attempting to escape from an officer’s grasp, and passive resistance, such as refusal to follow instructions, ignoring commands, or going limp to avoid being handcuffed, can be considered offenses under California Penal Code 148 PC.

Common Defenses to Resisting Arrest Charges

If you’ve been charged with resisting arrest or any of the other specific actions listed in Penal Code 148, you may have several different legal defenses at your disposal.

In deciding the best strategy for you, our law firm will start by looking at the circumstances surrounding the incident and try to determine if the arrest was made legally. The police may be enforcers of the law, but they aren’t above it. The Fourth Amendment exists to protect the public against unlawful search and seizures, meaning that if the police fail to follow a specific set of guidelines when making your arrest, your charges may be dropped.

Even if it wasn’t a lawful arrest, a resisting arrest charge may not accurately describe your actions. To be found guilty of resisting arrest under Penal Code 148 PC, your case needs to meet certain criteria. Many arguments can serve as effective defenses to your charges, including the ones described below.

Unlawful Arrest

Technically speaking, you can’t be charged with resisting arrest if the arrest is unlawful to begin with. If your arresting officer fails to follow any of these procedures, your arrest is considered “unlawful” in the eyes of the law:

  • Producing a warrant when required
  • Identifying themselves as law enforcement officers
  • Refraining from illegal tactics such as entrapment
  • Using probable cause to make an arrest

This is not a complete list, and there are many other ways your arrest may be considered outside of the law. The best way you can determine whether or not you have a case for an unlawful arrest is by consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Whether you have a few simple questions, or you need help building a case, the Law Office of Cherish Om can assist in your resisting arrest case. Contact us today for a consultation.

Self-Defense or Defending Someone Else

Police officers aren’t exempt from self-defense laws. If your arresting officer uses excessive force during your arrest, you are within your rights to run, resist, or defend yourself if necessary. California Penal Code 148 PC makes a specific mention of situations where it’s legal for someone to resist arrest if they are defending themselves or someone else. The section specifically says:

“(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.”

However, section (f) of California Penal Code 148 PC specifies:

“(f) This section shall not apply if the public officer, peace officer, or emergency medical technician is disarmed while engaged in a criminal act.”

This means that not only is resisting arrest legal in situations where the officer or EMT is breaking the law, but it’s also legal to disarm an officer or EMT if you feel that your life is in danger.

False Accusations

Simply put if you aren’t guilty of the crime you’re being arrested for, an additional charge of resisting arrest won’t apply.  Let’s say that you’re minding your business when an officer places you under arrest for robbing a convenience store. Because you know that you’re innocent of the charges, you attempt to flee. The officer then charges you with both robbing the convenience store and resisting arrest. Later, if a judge finds you innocent of the robbery, you will also be relieved of your resisting arrest violation.

Additionally, if a judge finds that the officer arrested you and he had no reason to suspect you of the crime in the first place, you will also be found innocent of the crime itself and, therefore innocent of resisting arrest.

Penalties for a Penal Code 148(a)(1) PC Violation

The penalties for violating Penal Code 148(a)(1) PC, which addresses resisting, delaying, or obstructing a law enforcement officer, can vary depending on several factors, including the specific circumstances of the offense and whether it is a repeat offense.

For a first-time offender, the charge is considered a misdemeanor with maximum penalties of a $1,000 fine and up to one year in jail. In many situations, a judge will reduce these penalties to probation or community service. However, for repeat offenders within a 24-month period, it’s likely that you’ll receive the extent of the penalties if convicted.

Frequently Asked Questions

California’s resisting arrest laws are complex, and successfully navigating them often requires legal assistance. The best thing you can do for your future is reach out to a highly rated criminal defense lawyer in California. In the meantime, read through the answers to some of our most frequently asked questions.

Is resisting arrest a felony in California?

Resisting arrest is typically a misdemeanor offense in California. However, it can be elevated to a felony if the resistance involves violence, threats, or the use of force against a law enforcement officer.

Can I face additional charges other than resisting arrest?

Yes, individuals may face additional charges alongside resisting arrest, depending on the circumstances. These may include assault on an officer, battery on an officer, obstruction of justice, or public intoxication.

Does resisting arrest have to be a physical action?

No, resisting arrest does not have to be a physical action. It can involve both physical and non-physical forms of resistance, such as refusing to comply with orders, providing false information, or intentionally delaying the arrest.

Can I be convicted of resisting arrest even if the arrest itself was illegal?

As mentioned earlier in the article, if a criminal defense lawyer proves that your arrest was unlawful, they will be required to drop the charges of resisting arrest.

What is the difference between PC 148 and PC 69?

PC 148 addresses resisting arrest without necessarily involving violence. In contrast, PC 69 pertains to “resisting an executive officer” and specifically involves violent acts or threats against an executive officer. PC 69 is considered a felony with more severe penalties.

Can I be charged with resisting arrest for shouting at or being rude to an officer?

While being rude or shouting at an officer may not directly constitute resisting arrest, it can contribute to a charged atmosphere. However, mere verbal disagreement or disrespect, without obstructing an officer’s duties, is generally protected by the First Amendment and may not result in resisting arrest charges.

The Law Office of Cherish Om: Trusted Criminal Defense Lawyers in CA

Still have questions? Penal Code 148 PC is lengthy and can be confusing to interpret alone, but luckily, we have years of experience defending cases involving resisting arrest. Whether you need legal representation or just have a few questions, the Law Office of Cherish Om is here to help! Fill out our online contact form to get started.

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