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Does a Resisting Arrest Charge Mean Jail Time?

No one wants to face an arrest by law enforcement, even if they’ve committed a crime. But does a “resisting arrest” charge mean jail time? Resisting arrest is a serious offense that can have significant consequences. However, it’s essential to understand the nuances of the law.

This article will explain when you might face resisting arrest charges. Then we’ll examine the factors that influence the severity of the offense and whether jail time is a likely outcome.

What Is a “Resisting Arrest” Charge in North Carolina?

Engaging in actions aimed at impeding or obstructing a law enforcement officer from carrying out an arrest or detention is commonly referred to as resisting arrest. 

Such resistance can take on various forms, including physical resistance, nonverbal or verbal defiance, or even attempting to evade an arresting officer. 

Remarkably, even passive resistance is considered an act of resisting arrest in North Carolina.

The North Carolina statute reads,

“§ 14-223. Resisting officers. 

(a) If any person shall willfully and unlawfully resist, delay or obstruct a public officer in discharging or attempting to discharge an official duty, the person is guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor.”

Regardless of the lawfulness of the arrest, when a peace officer employs reasonable force during the apprehension process, both passive and aggressive resistance can result in an arduous legal battle to justify one’s actions.

Passively resisting arrest is often a Class 2 misdemeanor charge while active resistance could potentially escalate to a felony-level offense. However, it is crucial to recognize that several defenses exist within the realm of the legal system, particularly when the arrest itself is deemed unlawful.

Many individuals who have resisted arrest have ultimately been vindicated in court, proving their innocence. In the subsequent sections, we will explore the circumstances in which resisting arrest is more likely to lead to a criminal conviction and jail time. We’ll also look at when the court is inclined to dismiss such charges.

When Can a Law Enforcement Officer Charge Me with Resisting Arrest?

Resisting arrest can involve physical resistance, such as physically struggling or forcefully pulling away, as well as nonverbal or verbal acts of defiance. Additionally, even attempting to flee from an officer who is in the process of arresting you can result in a resisting arrest charge.

In North Carolina, even passive resistance is grounds for a resisting arrest charge. You can face charges for actions such as:

  • Refusing to comply with instructions or 
  • Deliberately making the arrest more difficult

What If a Police Officer Is Making an Unlawful Arrest?

When faced with the possibility of an unlawful arrest, you may question whether you can face charges for resisting arrest if you assert your lack of guilt. In such situations, it’s crucial to understand the legal dynamics at play.

Individuals often presume that non-violent resistance to arrest automatically guarantees the dismissal of charges. However, the act of resisting arrest, even in the absence of physical force, can lead to charges filed against you.

If you genuinely believe that the arrest is unjust or in violation of your rights, it is advisable to do the following: 

  • Remain calm
  • Cooperate to the extent necessary for your safety
  • Refrain from engaging in actions that could escalate the situation further

Keep in mind that the determination of whether an arrest is lawful or not rests with the courts, not the individuals involved. Challenging the legality of an arrest is a matter to be resolved through the legal system, and resisting arrest, even if it is an unlawful arrest, can still lead to potential charges that you have to fight in court. 

The courts will ultimately assess the circumstances, evaluate the legality of the arrest, and consider any evidence or arguments before reaching a decision.

Nevertheless, the degree of force you use in resisting arrest can play a role in determining the gravity of the charges and your consequences. In situations where your resistance is non-violent, it is more likely your attorney can work with prosecutors to secure a dismissal, reduced charge, or more lenient sentence.

By enlisting the assistance of a seasoned criminal defense lawyer, you gain access to an expert who can skillfully assess the circumstances surrounding the arrest and identify potential legal defenses to challenge the charges against you. This evaluation can give you a strategic course of action as you navigate the complexities of our state’s judicial system.

What is Unlawful Arrest? Don’t I Have the Right to Resist Unreasonable or Excessive Force?

Unlawful arrests in North Carolina can occur for various reasons and may involve violations of constitutional rights, such as the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Some examples of unlawful arrests in North Carolina may include:

  • Probable cause: If an officer arrests someone without probable cause to believe that the person committed a crime, the arrest could be considered unlawful by the courts
  • Racial profiling: If an officer stops and arrests someone solely based on their race or ethnicity, the arrest could be considered unlawful by the courts.
  • Retaliation for exercising constitutional rights: If an officer arrests someone as retaliation for exercising their First Amendment rights, such as the right to free speech or assembly, the arrest could be considered unlawful by the courts.

Your North Carolina defense attorney can help you see all the ways that officers may have violated your rights. They can also strategically defend your position in court.

What Happens if the Court Finds Me Guilty

The penalties involved in a resisting arrest charge vary based on your actions and the verdict of the court (or negotiations your lawyer engages in to keep you out of court). Resisting arrest charges can be misdemeanor or felony level.

Felony-Level Charges and Penalties

Felony resisting arrest is a serious offense with significant penalties, including imprisonment for up to two years.

When you use force or violence against law enforcement officers during an arrest, resulting in physical injury to an officer, it is considered a felony charge for resisting arrest.

You can cause physical injuries by:

  • Pushing
  • Shoving
  • Striking an officer
  • Using a weapon to resist the arrest
  • Using a dangerous instrument to resist the arresting officer

Class I Felony Charges When You Resist Arrest

NC Statute § 14-223, you can face Class I felony charges if you willfully and unlawfully:

  • Resist a public officer discharging an official duty causing a serious injury to the officer
  • Delay a public officer discharging an official duty causing a serious injury to the officer
  • Obstruct a public officer discharging an official duty causing a serious injury to the officer

Class F Felony Charges When You Resist Arrest

If you cause “serious bodily injury,” you face Class F felony charges. These types of injuries include:

  • Substantial risk of death
  • Serious permanent disfigurement
  • Coma,
  • Permanent or protracted condition that causes extreme pain
  • Permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ
  • Injuries resulting in prolonged hospitalization.

In the event that you have a valid justification for resisting arrest, a proficient criminal defense lawyer can assist you in challenging any unfounded accusations brought against you. Your attorney can also engage in negotiations with the prosecution or advocate for your rights within a court of law.

Misdemeanor-Level Charges and Penalties

Misdemeanor resisting arrest charges usually come from non-violent resistance. Non-violent resistance can include:

  • Refusing to comply with an officer’s commands
  • Pulling away from an officer
  • Verbally protesting the arrest

Misdemeanor-level resisting arrest carries a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

If you face charges for resisting arrest, speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney to develop a strong defense strategy. Consulting with a qualified legal professional who is knowledgeable about the laws in North Carolina is essential if you find yourself facing potential charges for resisting an unlawful arrest. They can provide personalized guidance based on the specific details of your situation and help you navigate the complexities of the legal system.

Understanding your rights, seeking legal counsel, and engaging in a lawful and measured response is crucial when charged with resisting arrest.

Our Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyers Can Help

When facing charges of resisting arrest, it is crucial to have knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense lawyers by your side. Our team of seasoned legal professionals is well-versed in the intricacies of the law and dedicated to protecting your rights and interests. 

We understand the nuances of resisting arrest cases in North Carolina and can provide you with a comprehensive evaluation of your situation. With our expertise, we will diligently analyze the circumstances of your arrest, identify potential defenses, and develop a strong legal strategy tailored to your specific needs. We advocate tirelessly on your behalf, working towards the best possible outcome. 

Don’t face the complexities of the legal system alone. Contact our firm today, and let us guide you through this challenging process with confidence and expertise.