There are two primary ways in which the state charges individuals with misdemeanor resisting law enforcement. Typically, resisting law enforcement is thought of in the context of a fight or a struggle with police officers. This is not always the case, as the state can also file resisting law enforcement for fleeing, or running away from the police, after the police have ordered the individual to stop.
Misdemeanor resisting law enforcement cases often go to trial. The statute for misdemeanor resisting law enforcement is defined by IC 35-41.1-3-1 and reads as follows:
- A person who knowingly or intentionally:
- Forcibly resists, obstructs, or interferes with a law enforcement officer…while the officer is lawfully engaged in the execution of the officer’s duties;
- Forcibly resists, obstructs, or interferes with the authorized service or execution of a civil or criminal process or order of the court; or
- Flees from a law enforcement officer after the officer has, by visible or audible means, including the operation of the law enforcement officer’s siren or emergency lights, identified himself or herself and ordered the person to stop;
commits resisting law enforcement, a Class A misdemeanor.
Several challenges face the state when attempting to prove resisting law enforcement by force. A common problem that prosecutors encounter is the legal definition of “force.” The “forcibly resist” element of the statute is only satisfied if the defendant knowingly uses strength, power, or violence to evade an officer’s lawful exercise of his or her duties. Many times, a defendant’s interaction with police does not rise to this elevated level of conduct required for criminal activity.
Another important aspect to consider is if the state can prove whether or not the officer was lawfully engaged in the execution of his/her duties at the time of arrest. There are a host of suppression issues that could apply when officers come into contact with civilians. Sometimes, officers overreach and try to effectuate an arrest without a valid legal reason. If the state cannot prove that the officer was lawfully engaged in the exercise of his/her duties at the time of arrest, then the state cannot prove their case.
The most common defense raised in cases where the charged conduct is resist by fleeing is that the police did not lawfully request an individual to stop. A police officer’s order to stop may be by visible or audible means. The most common situation occurs when officers on the street order an individual to stop, and the individual does not comply. It is extremely important to remember that the police must have a valid legal reason to stop the individual. If police have no reasonable suspicion that a crime has occurred, and there is no probable cause to arrest an individual, there is no duty for an individual to stop and talk to police. It is a well established freedom for law-abiding citizens to disregard the police and go about their business.
There are a host of constitutional and legal issues that can arise in a seemingly simple resisting law enforcement case. It is imperative to have an experienced trial attorney on your side if you or somebody you know has recently been charged with resisting law enforcement. Contact the criminal defense attorneys at Banks & Brower, LLC. We are available at all times by calling us at (317) 870-0019, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.