Is Resisting Arrest a Felony in North Carolina?
Facing charges for resisting arrest can be a stressful and overwhelming experience. A conviction for resisting arrest can have long-lasting consequences, including a criminal record that can impact an individual’s future opportunities and relationships with law enforcement. However, there are ways to challenge and potentially get a resisting arrest charge dropped. In this legal blog post, we will explore if resisting arrest is a felony and how you may potentially get a resisting arrest charge dropped.
We will cover critical topics, including legal defenses and other strategies. You can take proactive steps to protect your future by understanding your legal rights and options.
WHAT IS RESISTING ARREST?
Resisting arrest is acting to prevent (or attempt to prevent) a law enforcement officer from arresting or detaining you. Resisting arrest can include:
- Physical resistance
- Nonverbal or verbal resistance
- Trying to flee from an officer who is attempting to arrest you.
In North Carolina, passively resisting is considered resisting arrest.
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.”
However, while resisting arrest can bring a Class 2 misdemeanor charge or worse, resisting arrest has many defenses in a court of law, especially if the arrest is unlawful. Whether it’s a lawful arrest or not, when a peace officer uses reasonable force to detain you in an arrest, resisting in a passive or aggressive way can cost you time in a court of law defending your actions.
Many who resist arrest are found innocent of any wrongdoing in a court of law. We’ll see more later about when resisting arrest is likely to result in a criminal conviction. We’ll also look at when a court is likely to dismiss your charges.
But first let’s see what criminal charges you may face.
WHAT IF I RESIST WITHOUT VIOLENCE?
Simply resisting arrest in a non-violent manner does not guarantee that a prosecutor will drop your charges.. You may still face charges even if you do not physically resist the arrest.
However, the extent of the force used during the resistance can impact the severity of the charges and penalties you may face. If you resist arrest without violence, there may be a possibility to negotiate with the prosecutor for a lesser sentence or charge or even dismissal.
An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help evaluate the arrest circumstances and determine whether any legal defenses can challenge the charges.
WHAT IS FELONY RESISTING ARREST?
Resisting arrest is a criminal offense in North Carolina that can result in significant penalties, including fines and jail time. But is resisting arrest a felony?
Resisting arrest charges can be either felony or misdemeanor level charges.
Felony resisting arrest typically involves using force or violence against a law enforcement officer during an arrest that results in causing the officer physical injury.
You can cause physical injuries by
- Striking an officer
- Using a weapon to resist the arrest
- Using a dangerous instrument to resist the arrest
Felony resisting arrest is a serious offense with significant penalties, including imprisonment for up to two years. However, if you had good reason to resist arrest, a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can help you fight the wrongful charges against you. Your lawyer may negotiate with prosecutors or fight for your rights in a court of law.
Class I Felony Resisting Arrest Charges
Resisting arrest can be a Class I felony in North Carolina. Because many individuals feel threatened when facing arrest, they can lash out, causing physical injury to a law enforcement official.
According to NC Statute § 14-223, you can face Class I felony charges if you willfully and unlawfully:
- Resist a public law enforcement officer in discharging an official duty and cause a serious injury to the police officer
- Delay a public officer in discharging an official duty and cause a serious injury to the law enforcement officer
- Obstruct a public officer in discharging an official duty and cause a serious injury to law enforcement officers
Class I felony charges for resisting arrest can bring from 3 months up to one year of active jail time or probation in addition to a criminal record, community punishments, court fees, and fines.
Your best bet when facing serious charges is talking with a defense lawyer as soon as possible. Building your case from the beginning of a wrongful arrest gives you the best chances of reduced sentencing or even dismissal.
Class F Felony Resisting Arrest Charges
If you cause “serious bodily injury,” to law enforcement, you face Class F felony charges. “Serious bodily injury” is causing the police officer to suffer one or more of the following:
- Substantial risk of death to police officers
- Serious permanent disfigurement to police officers
- Coma to police officers
- Permanent or protracted condition that causes extreme pain to police officers
- Permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ to law enforcement officers
- Injuries resulting in prolonged hospitalization to law enforcement officers
Class F charges for resisting arrest can bring 10 to 41 months of inactive or active jail time in addition to a criminal record, community punishments, court fees, and fines.
Even if you seriously injured an officer, if you had good reason for your actions, a defense attorney knowledgeable in NC laws and statutes can help you defend yourself against an unlawful arrest or reaction to excessive force.
Misdemeanor Resisting Arrest Charges
Misdemeanor resisting arrest generally involves a verbal or nonviolent physical act of resistance. These misdemeanor-level charges for resisting arrest often come about through actions of resistance, such as:
- Refusing to comply with the commands of a law enforcement officer
- Pulling away from a law enforcement officer
- Verbally protesting the arrest made by an arresting officer
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. There are many defenses for this type of crime and an excellent attorney can help you find a strategic way to fight for your rights!
Lawful vs. Unlawful Arrest: What Can You Do?
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.
- Racial profiling: If an officer stops and arrests someone solely based on their race or ethnicity, the arrest could be considered unlawful.
- 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.
Your North Carolina defense attorney can help you see all the ways that officers may have violated your rights!
Does a Law Enforcement Officer Need a Warrant to Arrest Someone?
A police officer must have a warrant to make an arrest unless legal exceptions apply. In these “exception” cases, a police officer may generally arrest a person without a warrant.
Some of the general exceptions to the warrant requirement for making an arrest in North Carolina include:
- Crimes Committed in the Presence of Law Enforcement: If an officer witnesses a person committing a crime, they may make an arrest without a warrant, even if the crime is a misdemeanor.
- Felony: Officers may arrest the person without a warrant if they have probable cause to believe they have committed a felony.
- Domestic Violence: If an officer has probable cause to believe that a person has committed an act of domestic violence, they may make an arrest without a warrant.
These exceptions to the warrant requirement are not absolute, and whether an arrest is lawful will depend on each case’s specific facts and circumstances.
The difference between an unlawful and lawful arrest may rest on the specifics of exactly what happened at the arrest scene. So your best bet is often to let the officer know that you want to remain respectful and then stay silent and cooperative until your attorney arrives.
Whether an arrest is lawful or unlawful depends on each case’s specific facts and circumstances. If you believe that you faced unlawful arrest in North Carolina, it is best to consult with a qualified attorney. They can provide legal advice based on the specifics of your situation.
Defenses Against Resisting Arrest Charges
In North Carolina, there are legal defenses that you can use to challenge an arrest you believe is unlawful. However, you can easily face charges for using force or violence to resist an arrest, even if you believe the arrest is unlawful.
It is essential to consult with a criminal defense attorney who can help you understand your legal options and develop a strong defense if you are facing charges of resisting arrest. Some possible strategic defenses an attorney may use to help your case include:
- Probable Cause: If an officer did not have probable cause to arrest you, your lawyer may argue that the officer did not have legal grounds to detain you. This argument could potentially lead to the dismissal of charges.
- Excessive Force: If an arresting officer used excessive force, you may have a valid defense if you believed you were in danger.
- Mistaken Identity: You may have resisted arrest out of confusion or fear. Your lawyer may argue that you did not realize the officer was lawfully trying to detain you.
- Officer’s Failure to Identify: An officer’s failure to identify themselves can create confusion and violate your constitutional rights. However, a court of law may justify their inability to identify themselves in situations threatening public safety.
You may seek legal help to defend against any charges that may result from resisting an arrest. If you feel that you faced an illegal arrest, you may challenge the arrest in court or file a complaint with the appropriate law enforcement agency.
What if an Arresting Officer Acts Violently?
If an arresting officer acts violently while arresting you, you have legal options to protect yourself and seek justice. Here are some steps you can take:
- Remain Calm: It’s essential to remain calm and not resist the arrest, even if the officer uses excessive force. Resisting the arrest can lead to additional charges against you, so complying with the officer’s orders is essential.
- Document the Incident: If possible, document the incident by recording the interaction on your phone or asking a bystander to do so. Take note of the officer’s name and badge number, as well as the incident’s time, date, and location.
- File a Complaint: You can file a complaint with the police department or the officer’s supervisor. Be sure to provide as much detail as possible about the incident, including any witnesses or evidence.
- Contact an Attorney: An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand your legal rights and options. They can evaluate your case and advise you on the best course of action to seek justice and protect your rights.
- Consider a Lawsuit: If the officer’s actions were unlawful, you may have grounds for a lawsuit. A civil rights attorney can help you explore options and file a lawsuit against the officer and police department.
It’s essential to remember that you have legal rights and options if an officer acts violently while arresting you. It’s crucial to remain calm, document the incident, and seek legal advice to protect your rights and find justice.
Our Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyers Can Help
At Scharff Law, we understand that the legality of an arrest can be complex. Whether an arrest is lawful depends on each case’s specific facts and circumstances. If you believe you have faced unlawful arrest in North Carolina, our experienced criminal defense lawyers can help you understand your legal options and develop a strong defense.
We evaluate the circumstances surrounding your arrest, such as whether the officer had probable cause or used excessive force. If we find your arrest was unlawful, we fight to have the charges against you dismissed. When a prosecutor will not work with us, we strenuously defend your rights in a court of law.
Our legal team is highly knowledgeable in criminal defense laws and strategies in North Carolina. We have a solid history of effectively defending individuals against various criminal charges, including resisting arrest. We tirelessly safeguard your rights and secure a fair and equitable resolution for you!
If you are charged with resisting arrest in North Carolina, reach out to Scharff Law for a complimentary consultation. We are here to help you navigate the criminal justice system and obtain the most favorable outcome for your case.