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What constitutes resisting arrest?

On Behalf of | Nov 29, 2021 | Criminal Defense

Most people associate resisting arrest with violent struggles between police officers and suspects, but individuals can face this charge even if they do not act aggressively. Suspects who allow their bodies to become limp so police officers have to drag or carry them can be charged with resisting arrest, and so can bystanders who become involved in a situation to impede law enforcement. Resisting arrest is a misdemeanor charge in Maryland, but the penalties for committing it can still be severe.

The elements of a resisting arrest charge

To prevail in a resisting arrest case, prosecutors must prove the three elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. They must first convince the jury that the defendant knew the person they allegedly resisted was a police officer, which is not always straightforward in cases involving undercover officers. Prosecutors must then establish that the officer was attempting to make a legal arrest and was impeded by the defendant. In Maryland, individuals are only charged with resisting arrest if they take physical action. A truculent or belligerent attitude alone would not be enough to support a resisting arrest charge in the Old Line State.

Resisting arrest penalties

Individuals convicted of resisting arrest in Maryland can be sentenced to up to three years in prison and fined up to $5,000. The criminal law in Maryland does not require the actions that led to a resisting arrest charge to cause harm, but it does state that the number of officers involved in the arrest is irrelevant. This means that a bystander who attempts to pull one of several officers off a suspect can be charged with resisting arrest.

Transparency in resisting arrest cases

Individuals charged with resisting arrest often plead guilty in return for a more lenient sentence even when the only evidence against them is the testimony of the police officer involved. Having video footage of all traffic stops and arrests would add transparency to interactions with law enforcement, which is why groups advocating for criminal justice reform have been calling on lawmakers to mandate body cameras for all police officers.