Obstruction of Justice PC 148

According to California’s Department of Justice, there were over 3,600 reports of individuals resisting arrest in 2022. Although we tend to associate fleeing the scene with guilt, many of these individuals may have declined to cooperate with police officers for perfectly valid and constitutional reasons.

If you have been charged with resisting arrest—also called “obstruction of justice” or simply “PC 148”—it’s critical to approach this situation with the gravity it deserves. Failing to mount a robust defense can result in life-altering consequences, including jail time and hefty fines.

An important first step in defending yourself is gaining a more complete understanding of relevant California criminal laws. This article will explore the nature of resisting arrest charges, including potential penalties, common defenses, frequently asked questions, and more.

If you’ve been charged with obstruction of justice, your future is on the line. Don’t make the mistake of trying to navigate the legal system alone—contact a criminal defense attorney at Gressley & Donaldson for guidance.

Defining Obstruction of Justice Under PC 148

The phrase “obstruction of justice” does not appear under California Penal Code 148. However, this section states that you will face criminal consequences if you behave in a certain way when interacting with first responders. This behavior might include:

  • Resisting first responders
  • Delaying first responders
  • Obstructing first responders
  • Interrupting or disrupting emergency radio transmissions
  • Taking weapons from police officers

Note that this California law protects police officers, public officers, peace officers, deputies, sheriffs, and emergency medical technicians (EMTs). It also applies to detectives investigating crimes.

What Constitutes “Resisting Arrest” in California?

Penal Code 148 does not use the specific phrase “resisting arrest.” However, several potential acts may constitute a violation of PC 148. Generally speaking, you are guilty of this offense if you fail to cooperate with a police officer who is attempting to place you under arrest.

Examples of Resisting Arrest in California

Cop dramas would lead us to believe that resisting arrest necessarily involves running from police, but that’s not the case. In addition to running, this particular offense can take many forms, including the following:

  • Hiding from police
  • Failing to open the door if the police have a warrant
  • Presenting a fake ID to police
  • Creating obstacles for police as they chase a suspect
  • Escaping from handcuffs
  • Kicking a police dog
  • Using physical force to prevent a police officer from arresting you
  • Verbally threatening violence if a police officer attempts to arrest you

Note that there are many other possible examples of resisting arrest, as PC 148 is very open-ended. Anything that might constitute resistance or obstruction could lead to criminal charges.

What Sorts of Acts May Constitute Obstruction of Justice?

Remember, you may face penalties under PC 148 even if you did not resist arrest. Other acts, such as inhibiting an officer from fulfilling their lawful duties, may also constitute obstruction of justice. Here are some examples:

  • Preventing a detective from interviewing a witness
  • Preventing detectives or police from accessing a crime scene
  • Becoming violent toward an EMT
  • Preventing an EMT from reaching a patient
  • Jamming police radio signals

If you’ve engaged in one of these behaviors, being charged with obstruction of justice may come as a shock. It’s essential to speak with a criminal defense lawyer as soon as you’ve been charged so that they can investigate the circumstances of your case and start building your defense.

What Are Potential Defenses Against Resisting Arrest Under PC 148(a)?

Remember: Just because were charged with a crime doesn’t mean you’re guilty of committing it. There are many effective legal defenses that you can employ to beat your charge, the most appropriate of which is based on the specific details of your case. We will discuss some of those arguments below.

You Did Not Willfully Resist Arrest

PC 148(a) states that a defendant is only guilty if they “willingly” resist arrest or obstruct justice. There are many situations in which a defendant may unintentionally engage in this behavior, and in these cases, resisting cannot be considered a willful act.

For example, an undercover officer may have attempted an arrest without properly identifying themself. You may have had no idea who this person was, and your sense of self-preservation may have caused you to run. Even if someone in plain clothes claims to be a police officer, it is impossible to accurately identify them until they present their badge. Many criminals in California intentionally impersonate police officers to carry out robberies and other acts of violence, and you are well within your rights to resist until you can confirm the officer’s identity.

In some cases, defendants may not realize that police officers are pursuing them. For example, you might have been out jogging with your headphones, unaware that police are running after you in an attempt to serve an arrest warrant. Or, you may have experienced a medical emergency such as a seizure while police were trying to arrest you, and police may misinterpret your inability to follow their orders as resisting arrest. Neither situation constitutes a resisting arrest charge.

It is also worth noting that a police officer must verbally inform you that they are placing you under arrest. If they simply become aggressive with you without explaining why, you may be justified in resisting.

You Were Falsely Accused

You may also be able to establish that you were falsely accused of resisting arrest. For example, you may have complied with police officers while offering no resistance whatsoever but still be charged with this crime due to a case of mistaken identity or false identification. Remember, the prosecution has the burden of proof – and they must prove your guilt beyond reasonable doubt. If prosecutors fail to present compelling evidence that you resisted arrest, the court must acquit you of this charge.

You Were Acting in Self-Defense

If you can prove that police officers used excessive force, acts of self-defense may be justified. When police officers use excessive force, they are breaking the law. If they are no longer acting within their official duties, you have the right to defend yourself against these unlawful acts in California. However, self-defense must be proportionate and reasonable.

For example, you may have been struck repeatedly while on the floor by police officers. In an attempt to avoid suffering a permanent or life-threatening bodily injury, you may have scrambled to your feet and pushed an officer aside. Courts may interpret this form of resisting arrest as justifiable self-defense—especially if you were not posing a threat when the officers started beating you.

Officers Lacked of Probable Cause

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects all citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures. As a result of this protection, officers must have “probable cause” before they attempt to make arrests. In other words, they must witness evidence of criminal activity before they detain citizens. This principle applies to arrests, traffic stops, searches, and entry into homes.

If the police officer in question never had probable cause to arrest you, you may be justified in resisting arrest. For example, you may have been walking down the street, minding your own business, when a police officer attempted an unlawful arrest. If you resisted, you may have been justified in doing so, as police cannot arrest you simply based on a hunch. The same logic applies if a police officer enters your home without probable cause or a warrant. In this situation, you may be justified in resisting or obstructing the officer.

Penalties for Resisting Arrest PC 148(a)

If convicted of resisting arrest under PC 148(a), you may be faced with various penalties. This charge is typically considered a misdemeanor offense in California, and potential penalties include jail time of up to one year in county jail, a fine of up to $1,000 and misdemeanor probation that may include specific conditions like community service, counseling, and more. However, these penalties may be more severe if you have prior convictions, or if there were aggravating factors in your case.

The broader implications of conviction can be just as devastating to your life. A criminal record can limit your employment opportunities, prohibit you from obtaining certain professional licenses, affect your immigration status, and damage your personal relationships. That’s a high price to pay—especially if you’re not guilty.

What Is the Most Important Evidence in Resisting Arrest Trials?

Your defense team may be able to use various pieces of evidence to prove your innocence. Note that the prosecution’s lack of compelling evidence should lead to an acquittal, and if the District Attorney fails to satisfy the burden of proof, you may not need to present any evidence.

An experienced criminal defense lawyer in California can call into question the evidence presented by the prosecution. This might involve cross-examining witnesses, questioning the accuracy of documents, and highlighting various inconsistencies. Here are some of the key types of evidence in resisting arrest cases:

Police Personnel Files

You may present police personnel files as part of your defense strategy. These files could contain in-depth information about the arresting officer’s history, including past instances of excessive force. By highlighting a police officer’s past actions and misconduct, your defense lawyer can call into question their professionalism during your arrest.

Video Evidence

On a state level, body cameras are not mandatory for law enforcement officers in California. However, many local police and sheriff’s departments have mandated the use of “bodycams.” If the arresting officer was wearing a body camera at the time of your arrest, you may be able to use the footage as evidence in your trial. Police departments are legally required to provide you with this footage due to the strict rules of discovery. Additionally, passage of a 2019 bill mandates police departments to release bodycam footage to the public within 45 days of “critical incidents.”

Even if the officers involved in your arrest were not wearing bodycams, other video evidence may prove useful. This might include video footage you might have recorded with your own device or footage provided by witnesses. It might also include surveillance footage from nearby establishments.

Witness Testimony

Witness testimony may also prove useful when facing allegations of resisting arrest in California. Your defense lawyer may call upon and question the officers who arrested you, or they may question private citizens who witnessed your arrest. Depending on the nature of your injuries, medical expert witnesses may also contribute to your defense. For example, a doctor may point out that your injuries clearly indicate the use of excessive force.

Obstruction of Justice FAQs

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If you’ve been accused of resisting arrest or obstruction of justice, you likely have questions. The best way to find answers is contacting a criminal defense law firm. In the meantime, check out the answers to some of our most frequently asked questions.

  1. What is the most common form of obstruction of justice?

Perhaps the most common form of obstruction of justice PC 148 is resisting arrest. This may take many forms, including running or hiding from officers. Defendants frequently face this charge for simply failing to open their door for an officer.

  1. Is resisting arrest a felony in California?

The penalty outlined under obstruction of justice PC 148 is a misdemeanor, not a felony. However, this section also presents the possibility of a felony if you took an officer’s firearm or weapon. You may also face a felony if convicted under California Penal Code Section PC 69.

  1. What is the difference between PC 69 and PC 148?

The main difference between PC 69 and PC 148 is the presence of violent behavior. If you resisted arrest in a non-violent and non-threatening manner, you will likely face charges under PC 148. However, if your actions involved threats of violence or actual violence, you will likely face charges under PC 69. Although both offenses can lead to a maximum of one year in jail, PC 69 outlines a much higher fine of $10,000 compared to the $1,000 fine under PC 148.

  1. How much time do you get for resisting arrest in California?

Your term of incarceration for resisting arrest in California depends on your specific actions, such as whether you exhibited violent behavior or attempted to take a police officer’s firearm. That being said, the maximum jail sentence for “simple” resisting arrest is one year.

  1. What is obstruction of justice in an investigation?

You may be charged under obstruction of justice PC 148 even if police were not attempting to arrest you. The law states that anyone who interferes with an investigation could also face the same penalties associated with resisting arrest. This might involve preventing detectives from accessing a crime scene or interviewing witnesses.

Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in California

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Whether you call it “obstruction of justice,” “PC 148,” or “resisting arrest,” the criminal consequences of conviction are the same: life-altering. Luckily, that’s not how your case has to end.

The dedicated criminal defense attorneys at Gressley & Donaldson can explore various defense strategies to get your charges reduced or dismissed and can mount an aggressive defense on your behalf. With years of experience, dedication, and resources, we have everything you need to overcome your charges and get back to living your life.

So don’t hesitate! Contact our law office to schedule a consultation with a compassionate legal advocate today.

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We understand that being accused of a crime is one of the most challenging times of your life. Rely on us to advocate for your rights and to give you the defense you deserve.