In Florida, resisting arrest is a charge commonly paired with other criminal charges for many defendants. The laws surrounding resisting arrest in Florida are somewhat nuanced, which means you are well advised to enlist the aid of competent counsel if you ever find yourself charged with resisting arrest in Florida.
Although using a certain amount of force to effect an arrest is legal for law enforcement to do in Florida, an arrestee is not generally allowed to respond with force of his or her own. Resisting arrest in Florida comes in two varieties
- with violence and
- without violence
Resisting Arrest Without Violence
In Florida, resisting, obstructing, or opposing a law enforcement officer constitutes the crime of resisting arrest without violence. Important in this statute is the criminal intent: there is none. Additionally, the offices of those entitled to be a victim of resisting arrest without violence is large. In addition to police officers, those who work for the Florida Commission on Offender Review, probation officers or supervisors, a member or representative of the Department of Law Enforcement, and anyone else who has the legal right to carry out service of process or any legal duty are protected by Florida’s laws against resisting arrest without violence.
However, as the name implies, the resistance offered by the defendant must not have included threatening or carrying out violence against the officer.
Resisting Arrest With Violence
Florida law makes using obstruction, opposition, or resistance to arrest a separate crime from its non-violent sibling. However, the mens rea is different, as the resistance must be knowingly and willfully. As expected, the defendant must have threatened or actually committed violence to sustain a conviction of resisting arrest without violence.
Similarly, the class of individual protected by the law against resisting arrest with violence is quite broad, covering administrators and members of certain state departments, probation and parole officers, and others carrying out service of process or any other legal duty.
A conviction of resisting arrest without violence in Florida is a first degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Meanwhile, a conviction of resisting arrest with violence is a third degree felony, which is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
Defense – Justifiable Use of Force
Florida statute states in a separate section that individuals are not entitled to resist arrest if the law enforcement officer carrying out the arrest is known to be or should appear to be a law enforcement officer and is carrying out a legal duty in good faith. Similarly, Florida law enforcement officers are not justified to use force if the arrest or other act they are attempting to carry out is against the law and that officer knows it is against the law.
Therefore, a common defense to resisting arrest with force and resisting arrest without force is arguing that the officer doing the arrest was not carrying out a legal duty, making the defendant’s resistance to arrest justified by Florida law.