Florida Criminal Law: Resisting an Officer Without Violence

In Florida, it is a crime to resist an officer who is carrying out a legal duty such as an arrest even if the resistance is not violent in nature. The elements for the crime can be complex and require a trained legal eye to respond to charges of this nature.

Statutory Definition

This crime is defined as the non-violent interference directed at a law enforcement officer, including a probation officer or person who is legally authorized to execute service of process, who is executing a legal duty without inflicting violence.

Penalties for Resisting an Officer without Violence

This crime is considered a first degree misdemeanor. As such, it carries a maximum penalty of up to one year in county jail or 12 months of probation and a fine of $1,000. However, many defendants receive less than this. However, being convicted of this crime can result in a person being encumbered with a permanent criminal record. Many individuals receive probation for six to 12 months. However, if there are aggravating circumstances involved in the case, prosecutors may be more inclined to seek jail time. Additionally, if the defendant has a criminal history, he or she may be more likely to receive jail time for the offense. This charge may be in addition to other charges, which may carry more extensive penalties.

Elements of the Offense

The prosecutor is tasked with proving each element of the crime by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The elements for this offense in Florida include the following: 1) The defendant resisted, obstructed or opposed an officer listed in the statute; 2) at the time of the defendant’s actions the officer was executing a legal duty; 3) the defendant knew that the person he or she was resisting, obstructing or opposing was an officer under the statute and legally authorized to execute the duty.

Case against Defendant

In order for the prosecution to secure a conviction, it can show even minor actions that are resistant in nature, such as not obeying verbal instructions, refusing to stand up when instructed, tensing arms while being handcuffed, refusing to leave when instructed, encouraging others to interfere with lawful actions or presenting a fake id when under arrest. Overt actions can subject the defendant to criminal penalties. Such actions may include giving false information to a law enforcement officer, concealing evidence or evading police.

In some situations words alone may be sufficient to convict the criminal defendant. This may result when the defendant serves as a lookout for others or when the defendant gives a false name at the time of his or her arrest.

Defenses to Resisting Arrest without Violence

There may be a number of different defenses that a defendant raises against these charges. One such defense is that the defendant’s action was involuntary. Because the charge requires an intent to obstruct, resist or oppose, an involuntary action such as tensing because of defensiveness or reflexes is not enough. Whether the defendant demonstrated adequate opposition or resistance is a question for the jury.

Circumstances involving the law officer’s actions can create a defensive theory. For example, if the officer was not acting in a legal capacity or performing a legal duty, the charge should not be successful. If the underlying arrest was illegal or the detention was illegal, resisting arrest without violence should not be charged because the law enforcement officer is not engaged in a legal duty. Likewise, if the law enforcement officer does not explain to the defendant why he or she is being arrested can help the defendant establish that the defendant acted in a lawful way by asking about the charges.

If the law enforcement officer applied excessive force, this may also be a defense that the defendant can raise. When such force is used, the defendant may be able to get a jury instruction on this subject. A criminal defense lawyer may be able to effectively cross-examine the officer regarding his or her history of complaints regarding excessive force.

Legal Assistance

Resisting an officer without violence can result in serious consequences, so it is important to consult with a criminal defense lawyer who is familiar with this type of charge. He or she can assess possible defenses to raise and develop a legal strategy that incorporates such defenses. He or she can also negotiate on the defendant’s behalf in order to pursue a plea bargain in the defendant’s interest while the defendant has the ultimate decision to accept or reject such an agreement.

Provided by HG.org

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.
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