criminal defense attorney near meIt is all too easy to get charged with resisting an officer in Florida. The charge is extremely common—and also frequently misunderstood.

Getting Charged with Resisting Arrest

The first cause of potential misunderstanding is that most people believe the charge is “resisting arrest.” But in fact, you can be charged with the crime even if you are not being arrested when you allegedly commit it.

The key to understanding this is to remember the actual name of the charge: resisting an officer. You can resist an officer at any point during an interaction with the police. The charge applies to any acts that interfere with or obstruct the work of an officer of the law. 

If a person uses violence to interfere or obstruct, the charge becomes resisting an officer with violence. That charge is a third-degree felony that can result in up to five years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine. Resisting an officer without violence is a first-degree misdemeanor that can result in up to a year in jail or on probation and up to a $1,000 fine.

The behaviors that could be considered resisting an officer are many, and this is why the charge is so frequent. Refusing to obey any lawful verbal command can result in a charge of resisting an officer. For example, simply refusing to stand up or sit down when a law officer asks you to can result in a charge of resisting an officer. Other behaviors that can lead to the charge of resisting an officer include (but certainly are not limited to):

  • Running or walking away from an officer has told you to stop
  • Refusing to leave after an officer has instructed you to vacate the area
  • Refusing to step out of your vehicle when an officer has instructed you to do so
  • Refusing to put your hands up or behind your back when an officer has instructed you to do so
  • Purposefully attempting to make the process of handcuffing you more difficult by, for example, tensing your arms as the officer attempts to apply the handcuffs

Remember, if you threaten violence or actually become violent while resisting an officer in any of the ways we have listed (and many more we have not), the charge will be raised to resisting an officer with violence, putting you in jeopardy of facing more serious consequences if you are convicted.

Whether you are charged with resisting an officer with or without violence, your next more should be the same.

Here’s Something You Shouldn’t Resist: Hiring a Lawyer

If you have been charged with resisting an officer, it is important to hire an experienced defense attorney right away. While it might seem like almost any action at all can lead to being charged with resisting an officer, there are several potential defenses against the charge. A skilled attorney will investigate the circumstances that led to you being charged and then choose the best possible defense for your situation.

Potential defenses include:

  • You didn’t, in fact, resist an officer.
  • You didn’t intend to resist and your behavior was an involuntary action.
  • You didn’t know and would not have known based on the circumstances that the person with whom you were interacting was a law enforcement officer.
  • The officer in question was not acting within their lawful duty at the time of the incident.
  • The officer was employing excessive force.
  • The state cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were resisting an officer.

Have You Been Arrested For Resisting an Officer in Florida?

If you've been arrested for resisting an officer in Fort Walton Beach, call Flaherty & Merrifield at (850) 243-6097 for a free, confidential case review.

Tim Flaherty
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Florida Criminal Defense Attorney