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What Are Arizona’s Resisting Arrest Laws

Arizona’s legal framework defines resisting arrest under A.R.S. § 13-2508. Resisting arrest involves intentionally preventing an arrest through various means, including using or threatening physical force, creating a substantial risk of physical injury, or engaging in passive resistance. Passive resistance refers to nonviolent actions or failures to act that hinder or delay an arrest. This can include actions such as refusing to comply with orders to put your hands behind your back or exit your vehicle.

While Arizona’s resisting arrest statute may appear vague, its broad language provides room for argument and interpretation by judges and juries. This flexibility can sometimes work to the advantage of defendants facing these charges.

Common Examples of Resisting Arrest

Resisting arrest can manifest in various ways, including:

  • Pulling away or stepping away from law enforcement.
  • Flailing or stiffening arms to resist handcuffing.
  • Refusing to exit a vehicle during a traffic stop.
  • Going limp to prevent being taken into custody.
  • Assuming a fighting stance against law enforcement.
  • Threatening violence or retaliation.

The burden of proof is on the prosecution

To secure a conviction in a resisting arrest case, the prosecutor must prove the following elements:

  • An officer was attempting to arrest you in their official capacity.
  • You had reason to know that law enforcement was attempting to arrest you.
  • You intentionally took actions to prevent the arrest.

What if the arrest was not legally justified?

Regardless of your innocence or the circumstances surrounding your arrest, you cannot resist arrest in Arizona. This is primarily due to safety concerns and the potential risks associated with resisting arrest.

Resisting Arrest Penalties Under Arizona Law

The penalties for resisting arrest in Arizona depend on the specific circumstances and the classification of the offense:

  • Misdemeanor Resisting Arrest: If charged as a passive resist under § 13-2508(A)(3), it is classified as a class 1 misdemeanor. Penalties may include up to 180 days in jail, fines and surcharges totaling up to $4,575, and probation for up to 3 years. The judge may also order additional penalties such as classes, counseling, community service, or restitution if the officer suffered financial losses.
  • Felony Resisting Arrest: Resisting arrest is generally classified as a class 6 felony. The potential prison time varies depending on your criminal history. If you have no prior felony convictions, you could face probation or up to 2 years in prison. With a felony record, the prison term may range from 2 to 5.75 years. Additionally, fines and surcharges for a felony charge can reach $274,500. A felony conviction may also result in collateral consequences affecting employment, finances, rights, and opportunities. Restitution may be ordered if the officer suffered financial losses.

Reducing a Resisting Arrest Charge to a Misdemeanor

A.R.S. § 13-604 allows for the reduction of a non-dangerous class 6 felony resisting arrest to a misdemeanor. This reduction can be initiated by the prosecutor or judge, providing opportunities for plea negotiations. This option is especially valuable for defendants, even if they lose at trial. However, this rule does not apply if you have more than one felony on your record. In considering the reduction, the judge evaluates the nature and circumstances of the crime, your history and character, and whether a felony sentence would be unduly harsh.

Common Defenses to Resisting Arrest in Arizona

Defendants facing resisting arrest charges may explore various defenses:

  • Lack of Criminal Intent: A defendant must have intentionally tried to prevent an officer from making an arrest. Accidental or reckless resistance does not constitute a crime.
  • Self-Defense in Response to Unreasonable Force: While the lawfulness of the arrest itself is not at issue, self-defense may be raised if law enforcement uses unnecessary or unreasonable force during the arrest.
  • Flight as Avoidance, Not Resistance: Resisting arrest should not be confused with fleeing to avoid arrest. A defendant’s flight may be considered an attempt to avoid arrest rather than resisting it. That is a different criminal charge. 
  • No Actual Arrest: An arrest must involve the actual restraint of the person or their submission to custody by the arresting officer. Resisting cannot occur without an arrest effort initiated by an officer.
  • Unawareness of Officer’s Identity or Intent: A defendant must reasonably know that the person attempting to arrest them is an officer acting in their official capacity. Lack of such knowledge negates criminal intent.
  • Conflicting Evidence: Increasingly, law enforcement agencies in Arizona use body cameras. In some cases, video evidence may conflict with officer testimony as can other types of physical evidence. Lack of corroborating evidence can raise reasonable doubt.

Navigating resisting arrest charges in Arizona requires a thorough understanding of the law and its potential defenses. Consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney, like those at the Litwak Law Group, is crucial to achieving the best possible outcome in such cases.