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Resisting Arrest: Penalties and Common Defenses

Understanding Resisting Arrest in Illinois

Have you been charged with allegedly resisting arrest in Illinois? A person commits resisting arrest when they attempt to prevent or disrupt a lawful apprehension by a law enforcement officer. This includes physical resistance showing active aggression and nonviolent actions that nonetheless hinder the arresting process.

Resisting arrest misdemeanor charges are all too common in Illinois. Often, it starts with an arrest for a crime or unlawful behavior, followed by an intentional physical or non-physical obstruction showing a refusal to consent to the arrest. For example, a person runs away, refuses to put their hands up, or does not alight from the vehicle despite being instructed.

Passive versus active resistance

Resistance may be passive or active. The Chicago Police describes them as follows:

  • Passive resistance: This is when a person to be arrested fails to comply with police officers’ verbal direction or other orders of police officers by not moving.

  • Active resistance: This is when a person to be arrested seeks to create a distance between themselves and the arrester with the intent to defeat the arrest or avoid physical control.

Classifying the resistance is vital so law enforcers can be guided on the level of force they can lawfully use to pursue a person. If the police officer acts with or exerts unreasonable or excessive force, such police officer may be held liable.

Resisting Arrest in Illinois Law

In Illinois, refusing to comply with a law enforcement officer during an arrest can carry serious repercussions. Illinois statutes denote that resisting arrest is indeed a crime, and understanding the letter of the law can spare citizens from unintended consequences.

Resisting or obstructing a law enforcement officer during an arrest is a breach of the Illinois Compiled Statutes. Under 720 ILCS 5/31-1, an individual commits an offense when they knowingly resist arrest or obstruct a police officer, firefighter, or correctional institution employee from performing their official duties. This can include physical resistance, evasion, or other obstructive actions, such as giving false information.

Lawful versus Unlawful Arrest

An arrest must be lawful—executed by an officer with valid authority, typically backed by probable cause. Contrary to some belief, resisting an unlawful arrest does not always grant a legal pardon. Generally, an individual is not justified in using physical force against or causing substantial risk to an officer during an arrest, whether that arrest is lawful or unlawful.

In the eventuality of an arrest, it’s critical to note the concept of lawful and unlawful arrests. Only a lawful arrest, typically backed by probable cause or a warrant, may be defended against in court if resisted. Consider seeking legal counsel if faced with such situations.

Crime Classification and Penalties

Primarily classified as a misdemeanor, resisting arrest may escalate to a felony based on its severity, the potential harm it causes, or if it accompanies other charges. The resulting penalties can range from fines to imprisonment.

Resisting arrest is generally categorized as a Class A misdemeanor in Illinois. The penalties for this crime may entail an imprisonment of up to a year and fines. However, it becomes a Class 4 felony when such resistance causes a bodily injury to the peace officer, correctional institution employee, or firefighter. That means a penalty of 1 to 3 years of imprisonment.

A conviction of resisting arrest means a minimum of 48 hours of incarceration and at least 100 hours of community service.

Common Defenses Against Resisting Arrest Charges

  • No Ground to Arrest: Firstly, the arrest must be lawful. The law states that no person may be held liable for resisting arrest unless the person has committed an offense for which they should be arrested. If your freedom was restricted by someone without legal authority, they may be held liable for unlawful criminal restraint.

  • Unlawful Arrest: In cases where an arrest is unlawful, we maintain that one cannot be punished for defending against an act that shouldn’t occur in the first place. Here, the distinction between a lawful and an unlawful arrest becomes significant.

  • Rescue of Third Person: The law categorically states that a person does not commit this offense if they resisted arrest in an attempt to rescue another person. 

  • Contrary Evidence: If there is physical evidence showing non-resistance—like video recordings or witness testimony—it could prove pivotal.

  • Self-defense: This may be raised if the arresting officer uses excessive force and poses a real threat. A reasonable person standard applies here; the force used in defense must be proportional to the force experienced.

When faced with these charges, the assistance of a criminal defense attorney can prove indispensable. At Hirsch Law Group, we understand that each case is unique. We collaborate with clients to craft a defense strategy tailored to their circumstances, whether it’s highlighting false information given by officers or proving that the alleged violence was, in fact, self-defense.

Impact of Resisting Arrest on Your Criminal Record

When an individual is charged with resisting arrest, the consequences extend beyond the immediate legal penalties. Depending on whether the crime is deemed a misdemeanor or felony, a conviction can result in probation, fines, or time in county jail or state prison.

Particularly unsettling for defendants is the effect on life after conviction. A criminal record with a charge of resisting arrest can significantly curtail employment opportunities. Many employers conduct background searches that reveal these convictions, potentially ending a job opportunity before it starts. Seeking housing also becomes challenging, as many applications inquire about criminal history.

Expunging or sealing these records can be paramount for those seeking a fresh start. Legal recourse exists to potentially clear a criminal record. Engaging a criminal defense attorney who is well-versed in defending against resisting arrest charges and knowledgeable about the steps post-conviction is critical.

How Hirsch Law Group Can Help

Our team at Hirsch Law Group understands the weight of these charges and the nuances of laws governing resisting arrest. An arrest must be lawful, and any resistance must be assessed within the context of legality and proportionate response. Where the gray areas of such interactions emerge, we step in as your legal advocates to dissect each detail and construct an effective defense strategy.

Our attorneys are experienced in criminal defense law and offer the following services:

  • Legal Advice: Tailored guidance based on the specific circumstances of your case.

  • Defense Strategies: Analyzing whether the arrest was lawful and if the force used was reasonable.

  • Representation: Defending your rights in court with robust legal arguments.

  • Consultation: A thorough discussion about your case to explore all potential avenues for your defense.

If you’ve been charged with a criminal offense, acting promptly is crucial. With the potential to face severe penalties and the risk of a permanent mark on your criminal record, securing legal representation is a vital step. Our criminal defense lawyers are here to navigate the complexities of your case and offer the support you need.

Ensure your rights are being upheld. Contact Hirsch Law Group today for a consultation.