More and more, we hear news stories of people getting charged with resisting arrest, but what exactly does it mean to resist arrest?
Let’s look at an example of a Florida man who was arrested for resisting arrest after a traffic stop last month.
Just after midnight, a police officer saw a man leave a motel without stopping before pulling out into the road. The officer stopped the Chrysler Sebring and asked the Lakeland man for his license multiple times.
The man supposedly refused to give the officer his license because he wanted to know why he was stopped, but eventually handed the license over. The officer explained why he had stopped the man and then asked what he was doing out that night. The man said he was there for family, but the officer claims the man seemed nervous and asked for his license back so he could leave.
After checking his ID, an officer saw the man was wanted on a warrant and asked him to step out of the vehicle. The man was on his cellphone and delayed exiting the car. When one of the officers opened the door, the man stepped out.
The officers then asked the man to put his cellphone down, and when he refused, they tried to get his hands behind his back. He resisted. Using a knee strike as a distraction, the officers were able get the man’s hands behind his back. The man, however, refused to give up his cellphone and broke the case. Police also claim that he continued to be belligerent after he was placed under arrest.
If the facts of this story are true, it appears that the police officers asked the Florida man to do different things and he refused to do them. They consequently ended up using force to subdue him, then arrested him for resisting arrest or obstructing justice.
How can you avoid having this happen to you? What should you do if you are stopped by the police?
How to Act If You’re Pulled Over by a Florida Police Officer
Your actions and reactions to a police officer when you are pulled over can have a huge impact on what occurs after the stop. Here are some things that you should do when you’re pulled over:
- Be polite, courteous, and respectful – regardless of how the officers are acting. It’s easy to be confrontational with a police officer who isn’t treating you in a professional manner, but don’t fall into that trap. Stay calm and be nice.
- Put your hands on the steering wheel or keep them visible so officers don’t have any reason to fear that you might reach for a weapon of some kind.
- Give the police officer your license, registration, proof of insurance, and anything else they ask for. Refusing to do this only gives them a reason to be suspicious.
- Answer any basic questions they have about who you are and what you are doing. Don’t lie about your name, either, because that will only cause unnecessary trouble.
- Stay in your vehicle unless the officer asks you to exit it. If you attempt to exit the vehicle on your own without being asked, an officer might find that threatening and react negatively.
- If the police officer finds a reason to arrest you – whether it’s valid or not – comply with what they tell you to do and let them arrest you. Any resistance on your part, even if it’s simply swatting the officer’s hands away, can be taken as assault and you could be charged with resisting arrest.
Ultimately, if a police officer pulls you over, submit to their questions and requests even if you don’t think you’ve done anything to warrant their actions. If you do anything other than follow directions, it can be held against you later.
Getting pulled over and subsequently arrested can be especially scary, but don’t let your fear drive your actions and reactions. Don’t let police officers add resisting arrest to another fightable charge. Instead, use your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney to get justice. An experienced Florida criminal defense attorney will be able to look at the circumstances of your situation and determine the best way to proceed to fight the system and get the best possible outcome.
About the Author:
Attorney David W. Olson is the founder of the Law Offices of David W. Olson in West Palm Beach. He has been practicing criminal law and successfully representing clients throughout the State of Florida for over 30 years. Throughout his legal career, Mr. Olson has been honored numerous times for both his dedication and excellence in criminal law. He proudly holds the Martindale-Hubbell AV Rating, as well as being recognized as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013), in the Nation’s Top One Percent of attorneys (2015), and as a 10 Best Member of the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys (2015). He has even received commendations from members of congress and other public officials for the fantastic work that he’s done. Mr. Olson graduated from the University of Florida’s Fredric G. Levin College of Law in 1981 and has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1983.