Resisting Arrest: Legal Consequences & Defense in Michigan

Handcuffs and gavel depicting resisting arrest

Riots broke out in Minneapolis following the death of George Floyd in May 2020. Floyd is the man who died after a policeman continued to kneel on his neck during an arrest for several minutes. He repeatedly told the officer he couldn’t breathe. Then, he became silent, motionless, and. handcuffed on the ground. 

The entire country seems to be in outrage over this tragedy. It may have been avoided – and Floyd may still be alive –  if officers had made better choices.

Floyd was reportedly in physical distress at the time of the arrest. There is no official ruling on his cause of death yet. Still, the four officers responsible for his arrest have been fired. This is presumably for their complicity in this manner of subduing a suspect, regardless of whether it caused Floyd’s death or not.

Resisting Arrest

This charge – resisting arrest – seems to appear on many lists of charges. It appeared on the list of charges policemen made against George Floyd.  However, the video shows him complying with the officer before the officer knelt on his neck.

The pattern of events shown on the video doesn’t seem to warrant this charge, which makes you wonder how often it is justified and how often police add the charge to justify excessive force against a suspect.

Here’s how Michigan law defines resisting arrest:

“an individual who assaults, batters, wounds, resists, obstructs, opposes, or endangers a person who the individual knows or has reason to know is performing his or her duties.”

In Michigan, resisting arrest is a felony that carries:

  • Two-year prison sentence as a penalty if you are convicted.
  • Four-year penalty if the officer in question is injured and requires medical attention.
  • Fifteen-year penalty if the officer suffers serious impairment of a bodily function.
  • If the officer is killed, it’s a 20-year penalty.

Never a Fair Fight

The very idea of resisting arrest being a crime in and of itself is a hard pill to swallow, especially when we see video evidence of what looks like police brutality being covered up by this charge. Especially if you’re African American, and your worst fear is that what happened to George Floyd will happen to you. And especially if you fear you’re going to get charged with this crime no matter what you do or don’t say.

Here are some behaviors that can get you charged with resisting arrest:

  • Assault or battery of an officer. Remember that under the law, a touch or tap or even a threat could be interpreted as an assault.
  • Running, hiding or struggling with an officer
  • False identification – verbally or in writing
  • Trying to help another person avoid or resist arrest.

Being slow to comply with orders given, making a complaint, or swearing at an officer aren’t usually bad enough behaviors to warrant this charge.

However, it is generally up to the arresting officer how he or she is going to interpret your actions. Sometimes, as it seems to be in the case of George Floyd, an officer is merely going to be covering his bases with the charge no matter what you do.

More often, prosecutors will add this felony charge to a list of misdemeanor charges. This gives the state a bargaining chip. They intend you to plead to a misdemeanor “attempted resisting arrest” charge.

Criminal Defense in Michigan

Michigan prosecutors are charging more of resisting arrest cases than ever before. Many good people get this charge leveled at them. It doesn’t make you a bad person. However, the best thing you can do for yourself is not to resist arrest and let us take your fight to court, and win.

If you have or a loved one has been wrongfully charged with resisting arrest, call my office today for your free initial consultation.

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