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Is Resisting Arrest a Felony?

Police officer arresting someone

Resisting Arrest in South Carolina

Is resisting arrest illegal? The answer is yes.

Resisting arrest can occur with or without violence, but in either case, it is a crime. In South Carolina, resisting can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances involved. Misdemeanor resisting arrest is punishable by up to 1 year in prison and/or a $500 to $1,000 fine, and it occurs when a person knowingly and willfully opposes or resists a law enforcement officer in serving, executing, or attempting to serve or execute a legal writ or process. If you know or reasonably should know a person is a police officer and resist an arrest anyway, you could also face misdemeanor charges.

On the other hand, if you use violence, you could face felony charges. The penalty for felony resisting arrest is a fine ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 and/or up to 10 years in prison. As you can see from these consequences, resisting arrest with violence is a serious crime. That said, it is a felony to knowingly and willfully assault, beat, or wound a law enforcement officer engaged in their legal duties. It is also illegal to resist arrest with violence if you know or reasonably should know that the person is a law enforcement officer.

Is It a Federal Crime to Resist Arrest?

While resisting arrest is a state crime in South Carolina, it is also a federal crime. Whoever does the following is guilty of a federal crime, punishable by fines and up to 8 years in federal prison:

  • Forcibly assaults, resists, opposes, impedes, intimidates, or interferes with any federal officer or employee engaged in or because of the performance of their official duties
  • Forcibly assaults or intimidates any person who formerly served as a federal officer or employee because of the performance of their official duties during their term of service

If you use a deadly or dangerous weapon to commit the acts above or inflict bodily injury on the federal officer, you could face up to 20 years in federal prison and get higher fines.

What Is Considered Resisting Arrest?

With these penalties in mind, it’s important to recognize that resisting arrest is a serious crime. Although a common offense, resisting arrest can simply exacerbate a situation that is bad enough as it is. If you’re getting arrested for a crime, acting or behaving a certain way can result in additional criminal charges on top of your existing ones. It’s a lose-lose.

That said, some examples of resisting arrest include:

  • Making your body limp so the officer has difficulties arresting you
  • Attempting to flee from an officer who is trying to arrest you
  • Running away from your arresting officer
  • Stiffening your body to resist an arrest
  • Using force against an officer who is carrying out your arrest
  • Punching, kicking, elbowing, or otherwise assaulting an arresting officer
  • Threatening to use force or violence against the arresting officer
  • Spitting on or shouting at the arresting officer
  • Evading an officer in their attempts to arrest you

How to Get Resisting Arrest Charges Dropped

Getting arrested is the last thing anyone wants to deal with. Naturally, some people choose resistance as a last resort option. From what we’ve explained above, however, resisting arrest can only dig a deeper hole for yourself. So, if you are charged with resisting arrest, you should hire a lawyer right away so they can look at your situation and determine the best course of action. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your alleged offense, the following defenses may help get your resisting arrest charges dropped:

Self-defense: Although the police are required to protect and serve, sometimes, they can get carried away. An officer who uses excessive force when executing an arrest could be committing police misconduct, which is also illegal. Thus, if you felt it was necessary to resist arrest by fighting back out of self-defense, your attorney may use this defense to help get your charges reduced or dropped altogether.

The officer failed to identify themselves: You can be charged for resisting arrest if you knew or reasonably should have known that the person you resisted was a police officer. However, if you did not know or could not have known that such person was a police officer, then a judge could potentially drop your charges. For example, if an undercover police officer stopped you on the streets, asked you some questions, and established probable cause to arrest you, you may be caught off-guard and naturally, resist their arrest. After all, how could you have known they were a police officer if they were undercover, not wearing a badge, not in uniform, and not driving a marked patrol car?

False accusations: If you were wrongly accused of resisting arrest, your lawyer can use this in your defense. Maybe the police officer had some spiteful agenda against you, or maybe they misinterpreted your behavior and conduct to be resistant. In either case, there’s a chance your charges could get dropped.

Unlawful arrest: Let’s say an officer did not have probable cause to arrest you, but went ahead and did it, anyway. It doesn’t if your arrest was lawful or not, as you could still get charged with resisting arrest. Nonetheless, your sentence could get reduced to probation or community service if your lawyer successfully argues that your arrest was unlawful, to begin with.

The first and foremost thing you should do following your arrest is to call a lawyer. When you do, they can explain your rights, walk you through the process, and provide trustworthy legal counsel that you need and deserve. When you retain Masella Law Firm, P.A. for your legal defense needs, you can rest assured that we will go above and beyond to help you beat your resisting arrest charge.

To schedule your consultation, contact us online or at (803) 938-4952!