In New Jersey, the laws that govern resisting arrest are strict. Those found guilty may face substantial punishment that can impact all areas of their life both personally and professionally. Resisting arrest is a criminal offense, which will result in a criminal record for those convicted. What constitutes resisting arrest in New Jersey? Those with questions or who need legal guidance may want to consider scheduling a consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney at Yates Law, LLC at (551) 237-8921.
What Is Resisting Arrest?
Pursuant to New Jersey Section Annotated 2C:29-2, an individual cannot stop a person in law enforcement from executing an arrest. Regardless of whether the individual believes they are being arrested without merit, a police officer still has the legal right to make an arrest. Eluding police officers also falls under the umbrella of resisting arrest in New Jersey and involves a person who intentionally tries to escape or flee police after being signaled to stop by the officer.
Key Elements of Resisting Arrest in New Jersey
The New Jersey Judiciary defines resisting arrest as purposely impeding public servants (for instance, police officers) from making lawful arrests or executing other official functions. The State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt specific key elements for an individual to be adjudicated guilty of resisting arrest:
- The person committed an “unlawful act” while being arrested or any act of intimidation, violence, flight, force, or physical interference.
- The defendant’s actions were meant to prevent, impair, obstruct, or pervert the completion of an arrest, conducting of the law, or other authorized function of government.
- The defendant’s actions did or sought to impair, obstruct, or corrupt the execution of a lawful arrest, administration of law, or other function of government.
It is important to note that unlike many other states, New Jersey does not charge criminal offenses as misdemeanors or felonies, but instead as a “disorderly persons offense” or third- or fourth-degree “crimes” when they involve resisting arrest or eluding police.
Driving While Intoxicated and Resisting Arrest
Those who operate a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs often do things they would not ordinarily do, especially when cognitive challenges and fear are part of the equation. Resisting arrest is common in situations involving driving while intoxicated (DWI), even when someone does not believe they are inebriated at all. Motorists often get pulled over on suspicion of DWI when they are within the legal limit of .08% blood alcohol content or have not consumed any alcohol at all. According to The State of New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, a first offense DWI conviction may result in penalties that include:
- Fines of between $250-$400
- A maximum of 30 days in jail
- Forfeiture of driver’s license until an ignition interlock device is installed, which is required for three months
- $1,000 per year auto insurance surcharge for three years
Resisting arrest in New Jersey during a stop for suspicion of driving while intoxicated only makes matters worse and can elevate the punishment for those convicted. Whether someone flees from a police officer in a motor vehicle or boat, fleeing may cause the offense to become a second-degree crime which may result in punishment that includes fines of up to $150,000 and between five and 10 years in prison. Those with questions may want to consider reaching out to the criminal defense attorneys at Yates Law, LLC for further guidance on this issue.
Punishment for Resisting Arrest
Resisting arrest is sometimes used synonymously with “eluding an officer” and involves intentionally evading an officer of the law who is trying to make an arrest, whether the evasion is successful or not. In New Jersey, those who attempt to prevent or prevent an arrest without attempting to flee the scene may be charged with a disorderly persons offense. Charges are elevated when someone attempts to flee a law enforcement officer, typically to a fourth-degree crime. However, when a police officer is threatened with violence or force when attempting to make an arrest, the alleged offender may face third-degree criminal charges. Penalties include:
- Disorderly persons offense – Maximum six months imprisonment, fines of up to $1,000. Fleeing the scene of an arrest may increase prison time to 18 months
- Fourth-degree criminal offense – Fleeing from police when resisting arrest, prison time of up to 18 months
- Third-degree criminal offense – Maximum of five years in prison
- Second-degree criminal offense – Maximum of 10 years in prison
A second-degree resisting arrest charge results when the individual who allegedly resists arrest puts police officers or others at potential risk of harm while fleeing in a boat or motor vehicle. It is important to keep in mind that those who are convicted of resisting arrest will have a criminal record which may impact employment, securing a mortgage, a professional license, and other aspects of their lives.
Potential Defenses to Resisting Arrest in New Jersey
There are several defense strategies that may prove successful depending on the facts of each unique case. It is important to keep in mind the burden of proof lies with the prosecution, who must demonstrate all the elements outlined above beyond a reasonable doubt. Possible defenses include, but are not limited to:
- Lack of intent. The actions of the defendant were not meant to interfere with officer’s attempt to arrest
- Self-defense. When there are legal grounds to arrest someone, police cannot use force that is excessive, unreasonable, or unnecessary
- Lack of knowledge. An individual may not be aware the individual executing an arrest was a law enforcement officer if the arresting individual did not identify themselves or was not in uniform
- Factual error or unlawful arrest. There are reasons that an arrest may be unlawful; a police officer may not act within the law when conducting an arrest
Consider Visiting with Yates Law, LLC
Charges of resisting arrest in New Jersey should be taken seriously. As with every criminal offense, individuals are always innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Those in need of skilled legal guidance and help navigating a complex criminal justice system may want to consider scheduling a consultation with the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Yates Law, LLC at (551) 237-8921.