Resisting arrest is very common and occurs any time a person interferes with or obstructs an officer’s attempt to make a legal arrest. In Illinois, it is usually charged as a misdemeanor. However, if there is an injury to the arresting officer, the offense rises to a felony. The charge of resisting arrest is defined at 720 ILCS 5/31-1:1 “A person commits the crime of resisting arrest if they knowingly resist or obstruct the performance by a peace officer, firefighter, or correctional institution employee of any authorized act within his or her official capacity.”
While the most classic examples of resisting arrest are fleeing from the scene or engaging the arresting officer physically, the statute is worded broadly and encompasses a wide variety of behaviors. For example, you can be arrested simply for refusing to put your hands behind your back, refusing to lay on the ground, refusing to put your hands on the squad car, or refusing to clear the scene of a crime when ordered to do so.
Resisting arrest is also a difficult charge to escape; even if the underlying charge against the defendant is dropped, resisting arrest is an independent charge and will remain. Thus, it is not a defense to resisting arrest that the underlying charge was dismissed. Further, a conviction for resisting arrest can even lengthen a person’s sentence if they are ever convicted of a future offense. Possible punishment for resisting arrest is a Class A misdemeanor in Illinois and is punishable by up to one year in prison and up to a $2,500 fine. If the police officer is injured during the incident, the charge rises to a Class 4 felony and is punishable by up to three years in prison and up to a fine of up to $25,000.
Defending against Charges
There are a few defenses available to someone charged with resisting arrest, most notably self-defense and unlawful arrest. A defense of self-defense requires the defendant to show that the law enforcement officer was acting unjustifiably violently and that the defendant used the force reasonably necessary to protect himself. Because a charge of resisting arrest can be levied only if the officer was making a legal arrest, another common defense is to challenge the legality of the arrest either by asserting that it was not pursuant to a warrant or that the officer lacked probable cause.
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