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Resisting Arrest Laws in Arizona

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In Arizona, resisting arrest is classified under various levels, such as a class 6 felony for actions that pose a substantial risk or involve physical force against an officer trying to make an arrest.

However, not every act or failure to act in the face of an arrest will lead to felony charges. Some scenarios may be considered as nonviolent resistance, which could result in a misdemeanor charge but still carry significant penalties, such as up to 3 years of probation.

Understanding the definitions, examples, and defenses to resisting arrest is essential for anyone accused of this offense. This includes knowing the different types of resisting arrest, such as active resistance, passive noncompliance, and physical opposition, and recognizing common examples of resisting arrest in Arizona. 

If you find yourself guilty of resisting arrest or simply seeking clarification on the matter, our team is here to help.

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Resisting Arrest

Resisting Arrest Laws

 ARS 13-2508 defines resisting arrest as intentionally preventing or attempting to prevent a peace officer, acting under official authority, from effectuating an arrest by either using or threatening to use physical force against the officer or another person, or by any other means creating a substantial risk of causing physical injury to the officer or another person.

Passive Resistance

Passive resistance refers to non-violent actions taken by an individual to avoid being taken into custody without directly engaging in physical confrontation. This might include actions such as going limp, refusing to move, or not complying with officers’ commands in a non-threatening manner. Under Arizona law, passive resistance can still be considered a form of resisting arrest. However, it typically results in lesser charges compared to more aggressive forms of resistance.

Active Resistance

Active resistance involves a more direct opposition to arrest, including fleeing from a law enforcement officer or physically attempting to evade arrest without directly attacking the officer. This form of resistance is more severe than passive resistance and is likely to result in more significant charges. Active resistance can include running away, pulling away from an officer’s grasp, or other actions that create a physical obstacle to arrest but do not involve assaulting an officer.

Aggravated Resistance

Aggravated resistance represents the most severe form of resisting arrest, involving physical force or threats of force against a law enforcement officer. This could include actions like striking an officer, using a weapon, or threatening physical violence in an attempt to prevent arrest. Aggravated resistance is typically charged as a felony under Arizona law, reflecting the serious risk it poses to law enforcement personnel and the public. Conviction for aggravated resistance can result in significant prison time, fines, and long-term impacts on one’s life and livelihood.

What Are the Elements Needed to Prove Resisting Arrest?

 An element is a necessary component or factor that must be proven for a crime to be established in court.

 In the context of resisting arrest charges, there are specific elements that constitute the offense. The prosecution is tasked with proving each of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the highest standard of proof required in the criminal justice system.

This means that the jury or judge must be nearly certain of the defendant’s guilt based on the evidence presented.

  1. Lawful Arrest or Attempted Arrest: The individual being arrested or attempted to be arrested must have been subject to a lawful action by law enforcement. This means the officer had the legal right and probable cause to make the arrest.
  2. Knowledge of the Arrest: The person charged must have been aware, or it must have been reasonably apparent, that a law enforcement officer was attempting to make or was making an arrest. This awareness is crucial for establishing that the individual knowingly resisted.
  3. Intentional Resistance, Obstruction, or Opposition: The defendant intentionally engaged in actions to resist, obstruct, or oppose the arrest. This could include physical acts, such as struggling or fleeing, or nonphysical acts, like refusing to follow commands.
  4. Manner of Resistance: The specific way in which the defendant resisted arrest is important, as it affects the nature of the charges and potential penalties. The prosecution must clarify whether the resistance was passive, such as a nonviolent act or failure to act, or active, involving physical force or threats.
  5. Officer’s Status: It must be proven that the individual attempting the arrest was indeed a law enforcement officer and was acting within their official duties during the incident. The officer’s identity and role must be clear and undisputed.

 If the prosecution cannot prove even one element beyond a reasonable doubt, it may be possible to achieve a favorable outcome.Consulting with a criminal defense attorney can provide invaluable guidance and help in challenging the prosecution’s case based on these elements.

man resisting arrest by fleeing the scene of the crime

Charged With Resisting Arrest 

Facing charges for resisting arrest in Arizona can lead to serious consequences and requires a thorough understanding of the legal implications. The charges can vary significantly based on the circumstances surrounding the incident, including whether the accused is charged with a misdemeanor or a felony.

Misdemeanor Charges 

Misdemeanor charges for resisting arrest typically result from instances where the individual’s actions are deemed to obstruct or delay a peace officer but do not rise to the level of physical aggression or use of a deadly weapon. Under Arizona law, this might include scenarios such as non-violent physical resistance or fleeing from an officer without posing a direct threat of violence.

Misdemeanor resisting arrest charges are usually classified under ARS 13-2508 as a class 1 misdemeanor, which is the most serious misdemeanor classification in Arizona.

The potential penalties for a class 1 misdemeanor may include up to six months in jail, up to three years of probation, and fines up to $2,500 plus additional surcharges. The exact penalties can vary based on the judge’s discretion, the specifics of the incident, and the defendant’s criminal history.

Felony Charges 

Felony charges for resisting arrest under Arizona law, particularly under ARS 13-2508, are serious and carry significant legal repercussions. According to the statute, a violation of subsections 1 and 2 — which include using or threatening to use physical force against another, or using any other means creating a substantial risk of causing physical injury to another while resisting arrest — is classified as a class 6 felony.

Class 6 felonies are considered the least severe category of felonies in Arizona, but they still entail substantial penalties.

For individuals convicted of a class 6 felony, the potential consequences can include one year of imprisonment for a first-time offender, with longer sentences possible for those with a prior criminal record. Additionally, convictions can lead to fines, probation, community service, and the loss of certain civil rights, such as the ability to vote or possess firearms.

Defense Strategies 

Crafting a defense against charges of resisting arrest requires a thorough understanding of the law and a detailed examination of the facts surrounding the case. Here are several strategies that may be employed:

  1. Unlawful Arrest: One common defense is arguing that the arrest was unlawful or not based on probable cause. If it can be demonstrated that the law enforcement officer did not have the right to make the arrest, then resisting such an arrest may not constitute a violation under ARS 13-2508.
  2. Self-Defense: If an individual used force in response to excessive or unnecessary force by a law enforcement officer, they might claim self-defense. However, this defense requires proving that the officer used excessive force and that the individual’s response was reasonable under the circumstances.
  3. Lack of Knowledge: The defendant might argue that they were unaware that the individual attempting to make the arrest was a law enforcement officer. This could be due to the officer being in plain clothes or failing to identify themselves properly.
  4. Lack of Intent: To be convicted of resisting arrest under Arizona law, there must be proof of intent to resist. If the individual can show that their actions were not intended to resist arrest — for example, if they did not hear the officer’s commands or were confused — this could form the basis of a defense.
  5. Mistake of Fact: Similar to lack of intent, if the individual misunderstood the situation and believed they were not being arrested or thought they were acting within their rights, this may be used as a defense, depending on the specifics of the case.
  6. Excessive Force by the Officer: If the defense can demonstrate that the officer used excessive force during the arrest, this could justify the individual’s actions to resist. This defense acknowledges the resistance but argues it was provoked by the officer’s inappropriate actions.
  7. Medical or Psychological Conditions: In some cases, a defendant may have a medical or psychological condition that explains their behavior during the arrest. If this condition made it impossible for them to knowingly resist arrest or understand the situation, it could be used as part of the defense strategy.

Each of these strategies requires evidence and a nuanced legal argument to be effective. The choice of defense will depend on the unique facts of the case and the available evidence.

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney 

Colburn Hintze Maletta (CHM Law) has demonstrated time and again their dedication to defending the rights of their clients with a meticulous and strategic approach to criminal defense.

Our Case Victories 

A compelling example of CHM Law’s dedication and legal expertise is evident in a case involving a client charged with felony aggravated assault and resisting arrest. The situation was severe: the client had fled from the police, resulting in a chase that ended with the client hiding under a vehicle. When officers attempted to arrest him, the situation escalated further as he overpowered them, causing injuries to several officers, some of whom required hospitalization.

Initially, the client was represented by a different attorney, under whose counsel the best offer received was a plea to permanent felony convictions, an outcome that would have had lifelong ramifications.

 However, once CHM Law took over. The firm’s attorneys crafted a detailed deviation request, engaged in a settlement conference with a judge, and prepared the case for trial. Their efforts resulted in a substantially better offer: the client could plead guilty to undesignated class 6 felonies, which meant that upon successful completion of probation, the offenses could be reclassified as misdemeanors.

True to their commitment to their client’s future, CHM Law didn’t stop there. Halfway through the probation period, they filed a motion to terminate probation early and reclassify the convictions as misdemeanors. The court approved the motion, probation was terminated ahead of schedule, and the offenses were reclassified. Ultimately, the convictions were set aside, significantly altering the client’s future prospects.

 If you’re going through this challenging time and need immediate help or more information, don’t hesitate to contact our attorneys at Colburn Hintze Maletta we’re reachable at (602) 825-2500.

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