Arizona Resisting Arrest Laws

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Resisting arrest is a serious crime in Arizona, carrying class 1 misdemeanor or class 6 felony consequences depending on the situation. Worse, resisting arrest (by definition) accompanies other criminal charges, which further complicates your criminal case.

Class 1 misdemeanors often result in a small fine and probation, but a felony conviction may result in a prison sentence.

The good news is that with the help of an experienced criminal law attorney, you can fight to have a resisting arrest charge dropped or reduced. Convincing a judge to side with you over a peace officer isn’t easy, but it’s entirely possible with the right legal team at your side.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about resisting arrest in Arizona, including:

  • What qualifies as resisting arrest?
  • What are the criminal penalties for resisting arrest?
  • What are possible defenses against a charge of resisting arrest?
  • What to do if you’re charged with resisting arrest in Arizona

Arizona Laws On Resisting Arrest

In Arizona, an individual may be charged with resisting arrest for “intentionally preventing or attempting to prevent a person reasonably known to him to be a peace officer, acting under color of such peace officer’s official authority, from effecting arrest” (ARS 13-2508). Under this law, the following actions may be considered resisting arrest:

  • Using or threatening to use physical force against a peace officer or another
  • Using any other means creating a substantial risk of causing physical injury to the peace officer or another
  • Engaging in passive resistance

ARS 13-2508 classifies the first two scenarios as a class 6 felony, while passive resistance is a class 1 misdemeanor.

Note that with passive resistance, it’s possible to resist arrest without being violent or threatening acts of violence. Passive resistance generally refers to a failure to follow a police officer’s instructions, which includes acts of civil disobedience.

Penalties Of Resisting Arrest In Arizona

As mentioned previously, resisting arrest may be a class 1 misdemeanor or class 6 felony depending on the context of the situation. Here’s a quick overview of the potential sentencing that accompanies those charges.

Class 1 Misdemeanors

In Arizona, class 1 misdemeanors carry a maximum jail sentence of 6 months, a civil fine of up to $500, and a probation period of up to three years. If you’re incarcerated, you may be required to reimburse the government for the cost of your incarceration.

When a defendant is convicted of resisting arrest multiple times within two years may see their classification bumped up to the next level. Unfortunately, that means a repeat offender who was previously convicted of a class 1 misdemeanor for resisting arrest may be elevated to a class 6 felony for their second conviction.

Class 6 Felonies

For first-time offenders, class 6 felonies in Arizona typically carry a one-year prison sentence with a maximum sentence of 18 months. The minimum sentence is six months, and the mitigated sentence is four months. Aggravated class 6 felonies carry a two-year sentence.

These sentencing guidelines may be increased for repeat offenders, with a maximum sentence of up to 4.5 years.

Keep in mind, however, that Arizona law permits judges to reduce class 6 felony charges to a class 1 misdemeanor for first-time offenders in certain situations. If resisting arrest is your first criminal conviction, your attorney may be able to leverage this rule to your benefit to help you avoid a prison sentence.

Proving Resisting Arrest

For a prosecutor to successfully prove that a defendant is guilty of resisting arrest, he or she would need to establish two critical facts:

  1. The defendant intentionally obstructed justice
  2. The peace officer was lawfully executing their official duties

In other words, the officer must have an arrest warrant or probable cause to arrest you, and you must intentionally do something to hinder your arrest, threaten the officer, or commit an act of violence.

Possible Defenses Against Resisting Arrest Charges

Now that we understand what it takes for a prosecutor to prove a defendant is guilty of resisting arrest, let’s talk about the possible defenses you can use to fight the charges. There are a number of defenses at your disposal, but there are two in particular that tend to be the most effective: self defense and unlawful arrest.

Self Defense

Law enforcement officials are entitled to exercise the amount of force necessary in the given circumstances to carry out the arrest. That’s a broad mandate that’s unfortunately sometimes abused.

When an arresting officer acts violently without justification, the person who is under arrest has the right to protect themselves and resist the arrest. So, if you can prove that the officer exercised unnecessary force and you acted in self defense, the prosecutor should drop the resisting arrest charge against you.

Keep in mind, though, that the “necessary force” doctrine goes both ways. You have the right to defend yourself, but once the officer is subdued you cannot harm them further.

Unlawful Arrest

The unlawful arrest defense may seem obvious when the officer arrests someone without an arrest warrant, but don’t forget about probable cause. If there’s enough circumstantial evidence — for example, the officer catches you with stolen goods or drugs in your car — the officer has the right to arrest you based on a reasonable suspicion that you committed a crime.

If you can prove that the arresting officer didn’t have an arrest warrant and there was no probable cause, you may be able to argue that resisting the unlawful arrest was your constitutional right as an American citizen.

That said, many states have adopted laws that criminalize harming police officers or threatening them, which can complicate the unlawful arrest defense if it appears you acted unreasonably.

What To Do If You’re Charged With Resisting Arrest In Arizona

When you’re arrested in Arizona, the best course of action is to peacefully submit to the arrest — even if you know the arrest is unlawful. That’s a hard pill to swallow, but resisting arrest only complicates your case and compounds on the other criminal charges against you.

If you’re arrested, remember that you have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. Request an attorney as soon as possible, and do not speak with law enforcement until your attorney is present.


Call the JacksonWhite Criminal Law team at (480) 467-4370 to discuss your case today.

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