I would like to review a common violation in Los Angeles County, Penal Code section 148(a)(1), known by the general title of “Resisting Arrest.” While this title suggests that resisting arrest requires very specific conduct, this statute is much broader, and includes activity of “delaying” and “obstructing,” as well. The focus of this discussion will be on police-related cases, and the difficulty of proof in many circumstances. Because of the technical nature of this violation, if you are facing this type of local allegation, your case should be thoroughly evaluated by a Los Angeles Resisting Arrest Attorney.
These cases often arise when police arrive at a scene where tensions are elevated, such as at a child custody dispute with ex-spouses. Lack of better judgment may result in someone interfering with police officers sorting out the disagreement. However inappropriate the interference may be, it may not constitute an actual violation of PC 148, as you will see, below.
Penal Code section 148(a)(1) explains that if a person purposefully resists, delays, or obstructs a peace officer (police officer) who is attempting to discharge his or her duties, this would result in a violation of law.
The proof issue of this charge almost always hinges on whether the peace officer was lawfully attempting to accomplish his or her duties; the answer is explained in the jury instruction of Cal Crim 2670. Essentially, a peace officer is lawfully performing duties if he or she is making a lawful detention or arrest, coupled with a reasonable amount of “force.”
Now, here is where this statute becomes complex. Police officers are trained extensively about laws related to detention and arrest. They generally know when a detention is allowed, and when it is not. In many situations, officers may believe that someone is committing a crime, but they have not determined a sufficient basis to make a detention or arrest. Thus, their options may be limited.
For example, a 911 call to police suggests that a problem exists in front of a Los Angeles residence. Police arrive, and begin speaking to people at this location. Police officers ask questions, but are unable to determine what problem, if any, may exist. They see a man walking away, and ask to speak to him. He looks at them, turns, and runs away. Since police have not developed a valid basis to detain or arrest him, a subsequent stop of him would likely result in an unlawful detention- thus, it is unlikely that Penal Code section 148 would be a valid charge in this case.
In cases where insufficient reasons exist to infringe a person’s freedom, another manner of contact exists.
For example, officers may see a car parked legally, but in a location where illegal activity is prevalent. Officers are taught in these circumstances that they should make a “consensual contact,” with the occupants in the vehicle. This is done by officers walking up to the car, without emergency lights/siren, in such a fashion that does not limit the occupants’ ability to leave if they choose to do so. The officers then begin communication with the occupants and make requests of voluntary information, rather than demands to provide it.
Let’s say that during this “consensual contact,” the occupants then exit the car, and run. If the officers have not developed “probable cause” to make a detention prior to this point, it is not likely to be a lawful detention if officers chase them down. Thus, because the officers did not lawfully detain the occupants, it is, again, unlikely that an arrest for PC 148 would be valid.
Every police contact is different, and many justifications exist for lawful detentions. However, there are many instances where the law protects people from unreasonable intrusions. If you have been accused of Los Angeles Resisting Arrest or similar violation, don’t simply plead guilty; make it a point to meet with an attorney who practices in this area of law to discuss your options and legal rights.
Copyright © 2016-7 Law Offices of George Kita. All Rights Reserved