When you are being arrested or stopped by a police officer, or witnessing an arrest or stop, Washington State law has protections in place for the officers who are conducting the stop or arrest. In fact, when you are the one being arrested for a crime, you may find yourself with more charges just by being arrested in the first place. Or if you are witnessing an arrest take place, and the officer decides that you have in some way interfered to any degree, you may find yourself facing serious charges as well for something that you may not have even thought of as interfering with the arrest. Resisting Arrest and Obstruction of a Law Enforcement Officer are unfair criminal charges that often complicate the lives of individuals who had no intention of harming or interfering with law enforcement officers.
When an officer conducts an arrest, he usually will most often employ the force necessary to retrain the individual he is after. If the individual exerts any kind of resistance or attempt to escape, he may be charged with resisting arrest. The actual statute for resisting arrest is defined in RCW 9A.76.040. The statute itself reads:
"A person is guilty of resisting arrest if he or she intentionally prevents or attempts to prevent a peace officer from lawfully arresting him or her."
The statute for this crime is particularly vague, and many times, it is the officer that decides what constitutes "resisting" when he creates the police report. Officers will very often immediately resort to yelling out "Stop resisting!" the exact moment they decide to make an arrest. This can guarantee them the permission to use force on you if any video evidence comes out. The best thing you can do is try your best to comply with the officer's demands and proceed with what they want you to do. Many times, an officer will arrest someone and bring them in, and the person that was arrested will have undergone the pain and stress of an arrest, only to find that, after the whole ordeal, the only crime they were charged with was resisting arrest. This charge can be difficult to fight in court, as the statute is vague, and the courts are more likely to take the officer's word over anyone else's. On top of this, resisting arrest is a misdemeanor crime, which means that it is punishable by up to ninety days in jail, and a fine up to $1000, or both. You may want to consider plea bargaining and make an attempt to reduce the charge to a lesser offense.
Obstructing a Law Enforcement Officer
If you are witnessing someone being arrested, from the moment the officer conducting the arrest decides that he is going to make the arrest, you are under strict rules not to interfere with him. If the officer decides that you have somehow in any way, no matter how big or small, have interfered with the arrest or investigation, you may face charges for Obstructing a Law Enforcement Officer. Obstructing Law Enforcement Officer is defined in RCW 9A.76.020. The statute reads as follows:
"(1) A person is guilty of obstructing a law enforcement officer if the person willfully hinders, delays, or obstructs any law enforcement officer in the discharge of his or her official powers or duties.
(2) "Law enforcement officer" means any general authority, limited authority, or specially commissioned Washington peace officer or federal peace officer as those terms are defined in RCW 10.93.020, and other public officers who are responsible for enforcement of fire, building, zoning, and life and safety codes.
(3) Obstructing a law enforcement officer is a gross misdemeanor."
Basically, much like resisting arrest, your actions are up to the judgement of the officer. Sometimes, things you say or do can be used against you. This charge can cover anything from impeding an investigation by withholding from the officer, to simply asking questions about the arrest. It is not up to you to decide what is and isn't interfering or delaying the officer. On top of this, when you make it to court, it will be your word against his, and the courts tend to favor the officers. Obstructing a Law Enforcement Officer is classified as a "gross misdemeanor" and is more severe than a regular level misdemeanor. Gross misdemeanors can be punished by up to one year in jail, fines up to $5000, or both. You will want to get an attorney right away if you are facing charges for Obstructing a Law Enforcement Officer. An attorney will know strategies and defenses to use against these charges, and can plea bargain with the prosecutor to prevent a conviction on a gross misdemeanor charge. If you are witnessing someone being arrested, it is best to remain quiet and stay out of the officer's way. Even if you don't think you will interfere with the officer, it is best to keep your distance, as the officer may arbitrarily decide that you have obstructed him in some way. If the officer is making a forceful arrest and is excessive, wait until later to file a complaint. It is better to walk away with no charges, rather than have the officer come after you as well.
There is no reason that anyone should have a criminal record because of a misunderstanding or a disgruntled police officer. Resisting Arrest and Obstructing a Law Enforcement Officer are two charges that can land you in jail, or with heavy fines for something that may or may not be accurate. When an officer writes a police report, not only will it appear against you in court, but it will also biased to reflect the officer's best interest, NOT yours. If you or a loved one is facing charges for Resisting Arrest or Obstructing a Law Enforcement Officer, don't go into the courtroom alone. Contact Steve Karimi today.