PENAL CODE § 148(a)(1). RESISTING, OBSTRUCTING, OR DELAYING A POLICE OFFICER
ELEMENTS OF THE OFFENSE
To prove you guilty of PC 148(a)(1), Resisting, Obstructing, or Delaying an Officer, the DA must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
1. An officer was lawfully performing or attempting to perform his or her duties;
2. You willfully resisted, obstructed, or delayed the officer in the performance or attempted performance of those duties; AND
3. When you acted, knew, or reasonably should have known that the officer was performing or attempting to perform his or her duties.
UNDERSTANDING THE ELEMENTS
What does “willfully” mean?
Someone commits an act willfully when he or she does it willingly or on purpose. It doesn’t matter whether or not you intended to break the law.
What does it mean to resist, obstruct, or delay?
A common misconception with this crime is that people think it requires proof you violently fought the officers. That’s not required. It’s certainly one way to prove the case, but not at all necessary. Simply doing things to unreasonably delay an officer’s investigation can be enough. You don’t even have to be the subject of the investigation. For example, say officers are questioning your friend or family member and you get in the way, yell at them over and over and essentially cause a great deal of disruption as the officer is trying to conduct his or her investigation. Well, in that case, the officer may in turn arrest you for delaying the investigation.
Simply running away from officers is another ground to prove you resisted, obstructed, or delayed an officer. But the officer needed at least a reasonable suspicion to stop and detain you in the first place. It’s not illegal to go for a run, in general. So if there is any basis to argue that the officer arbitrarily sought to detain you, then you very well may have grounds to challenge the detention in the first place.
What if you didn’t fight, but instead just made your body go limp?
Intentionally going limp, which in turn requires an officer to drag or carry you in order to accomplish a lawful arrest will meet the elements of this offense. It’s not a loophole.
What if the officer was not acting lawfully, such as using excessive force?
That is a common defense. If an officer tried to physically detain or arrest you without any justification or, even if the officer was initially justified, but then he or she used unreasonable or excessive force while making the arrest, then you had a right to reasonably defend yourself.
What counts as excessive force?
This is case-by-case. There is no bright line rule. Judges and juries often recognize that officers have a tough job to do when it comes to physically arresting people, so the reality is there’s often some understanding or leeway given to officers who testify about the aggressive steps they took and why. Don’t hold your breath for an officer to take the stand and simply admit he or she used excessive force. Instead, officers will no doubt uniformly claim that the force they used to carry out an arrest was necessary based on how aggressive you were acting. Of course body camera footage from the officers, if available, will be particularly critical in helping a jury to decide who is right. If you were injured as a result, had clothes covered in blood, pictures depicting your injuries, etc., all of this can be used to show, circumstantially, that you were the victim of excessive force.
The bottom line is that you’re allowed to physically defend yourself. Maybe you were initially non-compliant, but then officers went too far and roughed you up way more than was necessary to get the cuffs on you. If this sounds like your situation, and it’s not an uncommon one, then your lawyer will have some reasonable arguments to raise.