Resisting a police officer without violence is a serious criminal offense in Florida.
Under Chapter 843, Florida Statutes, the charge of resisting arrest /officer without
violence is classified as a first degree misdemeanor, with penalties of up to one
year in jail and a $1,000.00 fine. If you have been accused of Resisting Arrest Without
Violence, contact our Jacksonville Criminal Attorney for a free consultation.
How is Resisting Arrest or an Officer Without Violence Defined in Florida?
The law governing misdemeanor Resisting charges in Florida is Section 843.02 of the
Florida Statutes. It provides as follows:
Whoever shall resist, obstruct, or oppose any [law enforcement or probation] officer
or other person legally authorized to execute process . . . In the law execution
of a legal duty, without offering or doing violence to the person of the officer,
shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s.
775.082 or s. 775.083.
To prove a charge of Resisting an Officer Without Violence at trial, the prosecution
must establish the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
the defendant resisted, obstructed, or opposed a law enforcement officer;
at the time, the officer was engaged in the execution of legal process or the lawful
execution of a legal duty;
the officer was a person legally authorized to execute process; and
at the time, the defendant knew that the person resisted, obstructed, or opposed
was in fact an officer or other person legally authorized to execute process.
In many Florida criminal cases, Resisting an Officer Without Violence is a type of
offense that is frequently tacked on by police to supplement other charges. This
practice increases the likelihood of a conviction, as it forces the accused to confront
multiple charges, one of which can be proven solely by the testimony of the police
Even seemingly minor actions by a suspect or arrestee can form the basis of a Resisting
Arrest allegation in Florida. Tensing your arms while being handcuffed, not obeying
verbal commands, refusing to stand up, refusing to put your hands behind your back,
giving information deemed to be false or misleading, presenting invalid identification,
concealing evidence, refusing to leave when required, evading police when there is
reasonable suspicion of criminal wrongdoing, and inciting others to interfere with
police activities can all form the basis of a Resisting Without Violence charge in
Even words, by themselves, can support a Resisting Without Violence Charge. Florida
courts have identified three scenarios under which words alone are sufficient, including
where the officer in question is (1) serving process, (2) legally detaining a person,
or (3) asking for assistance. State v. Legnosky, 27 So. 3d 794, 797 (Fla. 2d DCA
Florida courts have also found a defendant's words alone sufficient to support a
resisting arrest charge when a defendant has been working as a “lookout” during the
commission of a criminal act. For example, obstruction and resisting charges have
been upheld when an officer observes a crime and tries to make an arrest, but a "lookout's"
words warn the suspect that the police are coming, thereby preventing a possible
suspect's apprehension. See Porter v. State, 582 So. 2d 41, 42 (Fla. 4th DCA 1991).
Similarly, words alone can support a resisting charge when the defendant gives a
police officer a false name during his arrest, because such an act is deemed to hinder
the officer's performance of his arrest duties. Caines v. State, 500 So. 2d 728,
729 (Fla. 2d DCA 1987); Legnosky, 27 So. 3d at 797.
Are There Defenses to Resisting Without Violence in Florida?
There are multiple defenses available to challenge a resisting without violence charge
in Florida. First, there must be actual resistance, opposition, or obstruction.
This is a factual determination left for the jury. Often, the officer’s allegations
do not rise to level of resistance, or there is video or other evidence (witness
testimony) contradicting the officer’s allegations. There may also be First Amendment
(free speech) issues, if the conduct of the accused is purely verbal in nature. “Resistance”
may furthermore be an involuntary reaction by an accused. Placing an accused in
handcuffs or taking him down to the ground can cause extreme pain, and can lead the
accused to tense up or pull away. Such reflexive and unintentional actions are arguably
not “resistance” or “opposition” within the meaning of the statute.
Second, even where an accused “resists” an officer, that officer must be acting pursuant
to a legal duty and must do so in a lawful manner. If there is no duty in play,
then the charge can not stand. Thus, Florida courts have held that, where an officer
engages a defendant in a consensual encounter (merely talking and not as part of
an investigation), then the act of giving false information or identification by
a defendant does not constitute Resisting Without Violence.
Furthermore, a defendant has a recognized right to resist an officer without violence
where the officer unlawfully arrests or detains the defendant. This often occurs
in situations where Jacksonville police confront a suspect without the requisite
level of probable cause or reasonable suspicion. In E.A.B vs. State, 851 So. 2d
308 (Fla. 2d DCA 2003), for example, a police officer approached a defendant at a
gas station and, without reasonable suspicion, began questioning the defendant about
recent vehicle thefts in the area. The defendant then ran away. The court overturned
the conviction, holding that the officer had insufficient suspicion to justify the
The manner in which the officer executes his duties can provide additional defenses
to a charge resisting without violence. For example, did the officer tell the accused
why he or she was under arrest? Section 901.17, Florida Statutes, requires a police
officer to inform a suspect of the reason for an arrest at the time the arrest occurs.
While a failure to advise of the reason does not, by itself, render the arrest illegal,
it can be a factor used to explain to a jury why a defendant’s conduct was lawful
and reasonable (and therefore not a form of resistance). In Albury v. State, 910
So. 2d 930 (Fla. 2d DCA 2005), the Second District Court of Appeal reversed a trial
court’s decision to disallow a jury instruction concerning the officer’s obligation
to inform the defendant of the reasons for an arrest. The Court held that the instruction
was a proper way of explaining to the jury why the defendant’s questioning of the
officer (as to why he was being arrested) was not a form of resistance, but a form
of lawful inquiry.
Excessive force is another defense that may be used in the context of a resisting
charge. Although a simple arrest, whether lawful or unlawful, may never be resisted
with violence, any excessive force accompanying such an arrest may be defended against.
Thus, the tensing of one’s arms, the turning away from officers, or even taking flight
can, in limited circumstances, be justified if the facts show that the officer acted
with a level of force that was inappropriate. In such cases, a defendant is entitled
to a jury instruction on excessive force and/or self-defense (the use of non-deadly
force), and can even cross-examine the officer regarding prior complaints of excessive
force. Thus, an officer’s arrest history is fair game if relevant to an excessive
force or self-defense claim.
Finally, an accused must be aware that the arresting officer is in fact an officer
of the law. This is often an issue in situations where the officer is off duty or
is acting undercover. It can also become an issue where there is a crowd, or a physical
altercation involving multiple parties. An accused may think someone is attacking
him from behind, or may resist an officer before becoming aware that an officer has