California “Resisting Arrest” Laws | Penal Code 148(a)(1) PC

In California, resisting arrest is codified under penal code 148(a)(1) pc making it unlawful to willfully resist, delay, or obstruct a public officer or emergency medical technician (“EMT”) in the performance of their duties.[1]

Contrary to popular belief, resisting arrest does not require physical force or violence. Instead, the crime punishes someone who obstructs, delays, interferes, or passively resists an officer or EMT from performing their official duties. The following are examples of resisting arrest:

  • Not timely pulling your vehicle to the side of the road when being pulled over;
  • Not promptly giving a police officer your driver’s license when legally obligated;
  • Running away from a police officer when commanded to stop;
  • Forcing your body limp so the officer must carry you into a police vehicle.

What Is The Prosecution Required To Prove For PC 148(a)(1)?

According to CALCRIM 2656, in order to prove a defendant guilty of PC 148(a)(1), the prosecutor must prove following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

1. A public officer or EMT was lawfully or attempting to lawfully perform their duties;

2. You willfully resisted, obstructed, or delayed the public officer’s performance;

3. You knew or reasonably should have known the person was a public officer or EMT.[2]

What Are The Legal Defenses To Resisting Arrest In California?

  • Self-Defense: A police officers excessive force makes the arrest unlawful. Every person is legally permitted to defend themselves from unreasonable force. Moreover, someone can naturally and instinctively react to pain caused by a police officer’s use of unreasonable force. This occurs, for instance, when an officer is twisting a suspect’s arm, bending a suspect’s wrist, or placing a suspect in a position that causes air deprivation. What would appear to be “resisting” to an officer’s perspective is actually a normal human reaction to pain.
  • Constitutional Challenge: An arrest or detention must be supported with either reasonable suspicion or probable cause. These levels of cause require an officer to have reasonable articulable facts that criminal activity is occurring. Absent this evidentiary requirement, a suspect cannot be convicted of resisting arrest since the underlying detention is not legally supported. The same is true for warrantless entries into a residence. If the officers were not legally permitted to enter a home without a warrant, then the officers’ conduct exceeded their lawful scope.
  • Knowledge: An essential element to penal code 148(a)(1) pc is that you knew or reasonably should have known that the person arresting you was a public officer. This defense is usually triggered when someone encounters plain clothes officers who fail to identify themselves, or when an officer grabs a suspect from behind.
  • Accident: Resisting arrest requires a purposeful act. Thus, if a person commits an act on accident, or it occurs through misfortune, then no crime was committed.


  • False Allegations: It is not uncommon for an officer to exaggerate or fabricate the circumstances in an effort to protect themselves from administrative discipline or civil liability. This is more true when an officer inflicts bodily harm upon a suspect requiring medical attention.
  • Officer Credibility: Jurors have a tendency to believe police officers over a criminal defendant. Fortunately, legal avenues exist to investigate the background of law enforcement. Uncovering prior misconduct claims, excessive force incidences, or obtaining department discipline records are extremely important because they could evidence an officers character trait for violence or untruthfulness.

Punishment & Sentencing

PC 148(a)(1) is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in the county jail and a fine not exceeding $1,000. Other conviction consequences may include:

  • Adverse immigration consequences for non U.S. citizens
  • Denial of an occupational or professional license
  • Community service or anger management

What Are 5 Common Examples Of PC 148(a)(1) – Resisting Arrest?

  • After pulling Dan over for a traffic stop, a police officer noticed Dan displaying objective signs of intoxication. After conducting numerous field sobriety tests, the officer placed handcuffs on Dan and arrested him for DUI.  Dan got upset and lay on the ground. The officer summoned multiple officers to lift and carry Dan into the patrol vehicle to complete his arrest. In this case, Dan would also be charged with resisting arrest because he intentionally went limp which required the arresting officers to carry him into the patrol vehicle.  Dan’s passive resistance delayed the officers’ ability to arrest Dan. Additionally, Dan could be charged with a separate resisting arrest count for each officer who participated in carrying Dan into the patrol car.[3]
  • Dan was arrested for misdemeanor domestic violence and he was transported to the police station. While in the booking process, Dan refused to give the booking officer his identifying information. Dan’s refusal caused the booking officer to have to run a manual background check which delayed the booking process further. Here, Dan would not be guilty of resisting arrest because refusing to disclose personal information following an arrest for a misdemeanor or infraction is consistent with a suspect maintaining their right to remain silent.[4]
  • Dan was pulled over by a police officer for swerving on the road. After Dan performed the common DUI tests, the officer formed the opinion that Dan was intoxicated. Because Dan was so intoxicated, he fell to the ground and passed out before the officer could place him in handcuffs. Consequently, the officer had to carry Dan into his patrol vehicle. Dan was later charged with resisting arrest. Here, Dan would not be guilty of resisting arrest because he did not willfully delay the officer. Dan’s purported resistance was the product of his intoxication which caused him to pass out over his free will.
  • Dan was outside of a bar when he began arguing with another bar patron. A police officer noticed the altercation and proceeded to break up the argument. The officer grabbed Dan from behind placing him into a choke hold. Dan maneuvered his body which caused the officer to fall to the ground. Dan was subsequently charged with resisting arrest. Here, Dan’s defense attorney would argue that Dan lacked knowledge that the person grabbing him from behind was a police officer. Moreover, the officer never identified himself verbally. Dan had every right to believe he was being attacked from behind by someone associated with the other bar patron.
  • Officers were outside of Dan’s house after receiving a call of Dan being too loud in his front room. Officers observed Dan through the front open door shouting with clear signs of intoxication. Dan was shouting racially charged epithets at an officer while inside his home. The officer got upset and ran into Dan’s home to arrest him for disturbing the peace. The officer had trouble taking Dan to the ground due to Dan’s resistance. Dan was later charged with resisting arrest. Here, Dan’s defense lawyer would argue the officer illegally entered and seized Dan inside his home without a warrant and, consequently, charges of penal code 148(a)(1) should be dismissed. Since Dan did not consent to their entry, nor was there an emergency circumstance present, the officer should have authored a warrant to legally enter Dan’s home.

What Are The Related Charges?

Contact Us To Schedule A Risk Free Consultation

If you’ve been arrested for resisting arrest under penal code 148(a)(1) pc, contact an experienced Newport Beach criminal defense attorney at the Law Offices of John D. Rogers for a risk free consultation concerning your rights and defenses.[5] Attorney John D. Rogers is a board-certified criminal law specialist – prestige certification that most criminal defense lawyers have never achieved. He has a proven track record of success representing clients charged with crimes against police officers. Give us a call and see how we can help you receive the best result possible.

Legal Footnotes:

[1] California Penal Code 148(a)(1): “Every person who willfully resists, delays, or obstructs any public officer, peace officer, or an emergency medical technician, as defined in Division 2.5 (commencing with Section 1797) of the Health and Safety Code, in the discharge or attempt to discharge any duty of his or her office or employment, when no other punishment is prescribed, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail not to exceed one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.”

[2] See CALCRIM No. 2656: To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must prove that: 1. someone was lawfully performing or attempting to perform his or her duties as a public officer; 2. The defendant willfully resisted or obstructed or delayed the public officer in the performance or attempted performance of those duties; AND 3. When the defendant acted, he or she knew, or reasonably should have known, that this person was a public officer performing or attempting to perform his or her duties.

[3] See People v. Hairston (2009) 174 Cal.App.4th 231 (“Defendant could be convicted of three separate counts of resisting an officer, even if they arose from a single act, where resistance affected three different peace officers”.)

[4] See In re Chase C. (2012) 243 Cal.App.4th 107

[5] Our Newport Beach law office also serves the following localities: Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, Seal Beach, Costa Mesa, Garden Grove, Fountain Valley, Westminster, Irvine, Laguna Niguel, Aliso Viejo, Mission Viejo, Dana Point, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Rancho Santa Margarita, Tustin, Santa Ana, Fullerton, Anaheim, Yorba Linda, Placentia, Lakewood, Los Alamitos, Orange, Long Beach, Torrance, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, Marina del Rey, Santa Monica, Malibu, Calabasas, Westlake Village, Van Nuys, San Fernando, Pasadena, Alhambra, Burbank, Glendale, San Marino, San Dimas, Monterey Park, Los Angeles, Bellflower El Monte, Covina, Pomona, Norwalk, Downey, Inglewood, Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Riverside, Indio, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Diego.

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