Resisting arrest is a serious crime in Massachusetts that carries a maximum penalty of two and a half years in jail. In order to obtain a conviction for resisting arrest, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knowingly:
A police officer is acting in his official authority when, while completing his official duties, he believes in good faith that all of the circumstances of the investigation compel him to make an arrest. The prosecutor must also prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knew the person trying to arrest him was, in fact, a police officer.
Once a defendant has been officially arrested (which happens when he has been detained, taken into custody in a secure manner, and placed under police control), he can no longer be charged with resisting arrest. Therefore, the defendant who fights with the police during the booking process (after he has been arrested, handcuffed, and transported to the police station) cannot be convicted of resisting arrest (although other crimes, such as assault and battery on a police officer, still might apply).
Attorney Spring has litigated hundreds of resisting arrest cases during his career. Some of the common defenses include:
When making an arrest, a police officer is not permitted to use excessive or unreasonable force. If a cop is using excessive force while effectuating an arrest, the person being arrested has the legal right to use as much force as reasonably necessary to defend himself. At trial, if there is evidence the defendant was lawfully defending himself, the Commonwealth is required to disprove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Commonwealth will often charge a defendant with resisting arrest if the defendant runs away from the cops. Massachusetts appellate courts have ruled that simply fleeing from the police does not satisfy the elements of the resisting arrest statute. Flight does not constitute physical force, and often does not create a risk that the cops (or any other person) will suffer bodily injury.
The Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knew both that: (1) he was dealing with a police officer; and (2) the police officer was attempting to effectuate an arrest. Often times when an undercover officer is making the arrest, there is a dispute regarding his identification as a cop and what he is trying to accomplish by confronting the defendant.
The reality is that some police officers lie. This often happens when a cop makes an arrest, beats up the defendant during the arrest, and then has to account for the injuries sustained by the defendant. In this scenario, cops will often say the defendant was resisting arrest and the injuries were the result of a struggle initiated by the defendant. In these cases, it’s very important to take photographs of any injuries and seek medical attention (even if the injuries are minor – it’s helpful to be able to present evidence of the injuries to the jury).