Resisting or impeding a law enforcement officer from doing his/her job is a wobbler offence, meaning it can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the facts. It is really either of two offenses, PC 148, or the more serious, PC 69. When does it become more serious? When either force or threat is involved.
Generally speaking, you must physically co-operate with law enforcement, meaning you must obey physical commands. But you are never obligated to give them information beyond identifying yourself – and only under certain circumstances must you even do that much. We enjoy freedom of speech, freedom of association, and freedom not to incriminate ourselves. It is a judgment call, however, as to whether your silence will be helpful to you in the long run. Because, if an officer believes that you might have committed a crime, he or she may detain you for long enough to dispel that belief. If after some investigation the officer develops a “strong suspicion” that you have committed a crime, he or she may arrest you.
Misdemeanor resisting is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1000 fine; a felony by up to 3 years in county jail.
There are several other related crimes, mostly misdemeanors, such as filing a false police report, disguising your identity, as with a mask, while committing a crime, giving a false identity to law enforcement.
You are only guilty of resisting if law enforcement itself was acting within legal boundaries. Bear in mind, however, that law enforcement is legally entitled to detain and arrest based on their “reasonable” beliefs. Sorting this out is likely a civil matter. Nevertheless, excessive force is a good defense to resisting arrest. A motion called a “Pitches” motion may be filed in such a case, to determine if an officer has a disciplinary history of excessive force or other wrongful acts. If successful, the officer’s record may be used to prove inappropriate behavior in your case to impeach an officer-witness, or, at at least weaken the prosecution’s case to secure a more favorable plea deal.
A misdemeanor conviction for this crime, if done with force or threat, carries a ten year weapons ban. A felony conviction of this, or any other crime, always carries a lifetime weapons ban.
Evading an officer in a vehicle, VC 2800, is a separate crime. It is also a wobbler, becoming a felony when the evasion becomes “reckless.”
A defense to this crime can be that the suspect was not aware he was being pursued, since it is only a crime when there is “intent” to evade apprehension. Law enforcement often employ stealth tactics to pursue a suspect for obvious reasons. Thus, it is incumbent upon the prosecution to prove that law enforcement made it clear to the suspect that he/she is being pursued, by, for example, proving that the flashing red light was on.
Because of society’s appetite for police chases, however, it will not take long for there to be video of the chase. Many law enforcement vehicles have video cameras in them, also, so proof of a chase will not be hard to produce.
Links to Information for Anyone Charged with a Crime: