Nobody wants to be arrested. Especially people who aren't doing anything wrong. But, in New Jersey, when the police try to arrest someone, any resistance can end up in a criminal charge, even if the person wasn't doing anything illegal in the first place. In some cases, verbal resistance is enough for a charge of resisting arrest. The crime of resisting arrest demonstrates the authority of the police and what can happen if you don't follow a police officer's commands. If you are facing a resisting arrest charge, then it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
What is Resisting Arrest?
Resisting arrest is commonly thought of as a violent struggle between a police officer or officers and a suspect they are trying to handcuff. While these are the types of videos that circle social media, they are by no means the only types of activities that can result in a resisting arrest charge. An individual can be charged with resisting arrest for either their physical or verbal actions when dealing with the police. Any action that is taken by an individual facing an arrest to avoid being arrested can be deemed as resisting. If an officer is threatened with violence by someone he or she is arresting, then that can also qualify as resisting arrest. This is true even if the individual never actually attempts to harm the officer. Resisting arrest can even be charged for giving the police false or misleading information.
What New Jersey Laws are There Against Resisting Arrest?
In New Jersey, the crime of resisting arrest can be charged in few ways. Depending on the alleged actions of an individual facing arrest, a resisting arrest charge can be either a disorderly persons offense (misdemeanor) or an indictable offense (felony). New Jersey Statutes 2C:29-2 is the main criminal statute that outlines the laws against resisting arrest. Resisting arrest charges in New Jersey are further broken down into categories, they include:
- New Jersey Statutes 2C:29-2(a)(1): this law prohibits purposely preventing or attempting to prevent a police officer from making an arrest.
- New Jersey Statutes 2C:29-2(a)(2): this law prohibits purposely preventing or attempting to prevent a police officer from making an arrest by trying to flee or run away.
- New Jersey Statutes 2C:29-2(a)(3): this law prohibits using or threatening to use physical force or violence against a police officer or another, and/or using any other means to create a serious risk of causing physical harm or injury to the police officer
- New Jersey Statutes 2C:29-2(b): this law prohibits any individual driving a car from purposely trying to flee from an officer after the officer has given a signal for the individual to pull over.
As you can see, there are multiple types of actions that can result in a resisting arrest charge under New Jersey law. If you are charged with any of the resisting arrest charges above, then you can harsh penalties if you are convicted.
What are the Potential Penalties for a Resisting Arrest Charge?
The penalties for a resisting arrest charge are largely determined by the alleged actions of the individual charged. In New Jersey, criminal felony charges (indictable offenses) are organized into four different degrees of severity, and misdemeanors are known as disorderly persons offenses. First-degree offenses are the most severe charges in New Jersey, but no resisting arrest charge can end up as a first-degree offense. A resisting arrest can be charged as a:
- Second-degree offense: Resisting arrest is a second-degree offense if an individual refuses to pull over after a command from a police officer to do so while driving and creates a serious risk of death or injury to anyone. A high-speed chase would be an example of this type of offense. If you are convicted of a second-degree offense, then you can face 5-10 years in prison. There is a presumption of incarceration for convictions of second-degree offenses under New Jersey law. Second-degree offenses also carry potential fines that can be as high as $150,000.
- Third-degree offense: Resisting arrest is a third-degree offense if an individual refuses to pull over when commanded to do so by an officer; or threatens an officer with violence or attempts to use violence against a police officer. If you are convicted, you can face 3-5 years in prison, but there is no presumption of incarceration. Third-degree offenses also carry potential fines that can be as high as $15,000.
- Fourth-degree offense: Resisting arrest is a fourth-degree offense if an individual attempts to flee or run away from an officer trying to make an arrest. If you are convicted, you can face up to 18 months in prison, but there is no presumption of incarceration. Fourth-degree offenses also carry potential fines that can be as high as $10,000.
- Disorderly persons offense: Resisting arrest is a disorderly persons offense if an individual purposely prevents or tries to prevent an officer from making an arrest. If you are convicted, you can face up to six months in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.
If you are driving a car and are charged with resisting arrest for trying to flee and refusing to pull over, then you also face having your driver's license suspended by the New Jersey Division of Motor Vehicles. This suspension can last anywhere from six months to two years.
Collateral Consequences of a Resisting Arrest Conviction
Along with the direct punishment that a judge can hand down for a resisting arrest conviction, a resisting arrest conviction can have several other lasting effects. Having a felony (indictable offense) conviction for resisting arrest can prevent you from qualifying for certain employment, housing, and even government loans. In New Jersey, you also lose your right to vote until all of your felony conditions are completed. You may also run into immigration problems as resisting arrest can be considered a crime of moral turpitude. A resisting arrest conviction may also prevent you from being able to enlist in a branch of the United States Military.
What are the Potential Defenses to a Resisting Arrest Charge?
For a prosecutor to be successful in a resisting arrest prosecution, the main thing that they will have to prove is an intent to disobey an officer's commands in some way to prevent an arrest. If it is not proven that you had an intent to resist the officer, then you can be properly acquitted of your resisting arrest charge. If, for example, the officer was hurting you and you were writing in pain and twisting around, then you did not have the intent to disobey the officer. It is also a defense if you did not know that you were being arrested. It is important to know that being innocent of the crime in question is NOT a defense to resisting arrest. Depending on the circumstances of your case, several defenses may be available to you in your resisting arrest case.
The Potential of Pre-Trial Intervention for a Resisting Arrest Charge
If your resisting arrest charge is a third-degree, fourth-degree, or disorderly persons offense, then you may be able to use pre-trial intervention to resolve your case. If you are granted pre-trial intervention, then at the end of your probationary period, your resisting arrest charges will be dismissed entirely. Pre-trial intervention is available to first-time offenders who are nonviolent. Your probationary period can last up to three years, and you must request pre-trial intervention in writing within 28 days of being charged. If you are denied entry into pre-trial intervention, then you can appeal the decision to a superior court judge.
How an Attorney Can Help with a Resisting Arrest Charge
An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you assess the strength of the charges against you and its weaknesses. If you have potential legal defenses to the charge, then your attorney can help explore how to use those defenses to help you. It is important to understand the full scope of your case so you can make confident decisions on how to proceed with your defense. If you have legal questions, then the attorneys at the Lento Law Firm are standing by to help!
Contact the Lento Law Firm Today
If you are facing a criminal charge related to an alleged act of resisting arrest in New Jersey, then it is important to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney. Resisting arrest charges can vary greatly, as can the potential punishment. Understanding the full parameters of your resisting arrest charge is critical to formulating the appropriate defense strategy. The attorneys at the Lento Law Firm have the required experience and proficiency that you need to help you find success defending your charge. To learn why attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm is the right choice to help you fight your resisting arrest charge, call us at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.