Explanation of “Resisting an Executive Officer” – CA Penal Code 69 PC

October 20, 2018

In California, resisting an executive officer is charged under penal code 69 pc making it unlawful to willfully resist or delay an officer during the performance of their duty with force or violence.[1] It is considered a violent offense because the suspect willfully and knowingly interfered with the officers violently – e.g., force or threat. It is not uncommon for you to be also charged with assault, battery, criminal threats, and assault upon an officer.

What separates resisting an executive officer with resist arrest is the level of force or violence the suspect uses. Moreover, resisting arrest can be accomplished by a simple delay without the use of force or violence, whereas resisting an executive officer requires force or a threat in retaliation for or to prevent the performance of the officer’s official duties.

What is the Government Required to Prove?

According to CALCRIM 2652, in order for you to be found guilty of resisting an executive officer under PC 69, the government must prove:

  1. You unlawfully resisting an executive officer using force or violence;
  2. The officer was lawfully performing their duty when you acted;
  3. You knew the executive officer was in the performance of their duty.[2]

What is the Punishment for Penal Code 69?

Penal code 69 is a wobbler allowing the prosecutor to charge you with either a felony or misdemeanor. A felony conviction is punishable in the county jail for 16 months, 2, or 3 years. A misdemeanor conviction carries a sentence of up to one year in the county jail. Additionally, the fine amount could be up to $10,000.

What are the Legal Defenses to PC 69?

  • Executive Officer: An executive officer is not precisely defined and it historically withstood multiple constitutional vague challenges. But it is used broadly as synonymous with all public officers and employees. Common examples of executive officers include patrol officers, jailers, federal agents, and virtually any member of the local, state, or federal governments.
  • Scope of Duty: As a matter of public policy and department integrity, law enforcement personnel must be acting within the scope of their duty effectuating your detention or arrest. Issues of excessive force or illegal behavior on the officers part will remove their lawful duty and allow a suspect to assert a defense in that the officer was acting outside their allowable duties.
  • Self-Defense: The law permits a person to act in self-defense to prevent unreasonable risk of injury to themselves or another. This defense encompasses physical encounters with police officers who engage in acts of force that is more than necessary to satisfy their duty. Accordingly, if you responded by pushing or striking an officer as means to prevent further unlawful use of force, then the law will recognize your entitlement to respond with reasonable force.
  • Intent: Resisting an executive officer is a general intent crime. Moreover, the government does not need to prove you harbor the specific intent to harm the officer. Instead, the crime is accomplished if you intended to commit the underlying act. Thus, if you responded with an unintentional act, or had a sudden uncontrollable impulse or response, then you did not act with the requisite intent.
  • Knowledge: A suspect must have knowledge that the person they are resisting from is a police officer. Lack of knowledge may be the product of undercover officer encounters or perhaps a uniform officer physically detaining you behind your back.
  • Exaggeration: It is not uncommon for officers to exaggerate, or even fabricate, the circumstances of your arrest as a means of protecting themselves from civil, criminal, or inner department liability. This is especially true if you suffered injuries or obtained medical attention at the hospital.

Examples of Resisting an Executive Officer

  • Kicking a police officer as they attempt to place you in handcuffs.
  • Making a threat to a police officer when they attempt to place you in handcuffs.
  • Throwing a beer can towards an officer as they are dispersing a disorderly crowd.
  • Push a police officer hand away as they attempt to arrest you.

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Retaining the right law to handle serious charges of penal code 69(a) pc can be one of the most important decisions you make. We pride ourselves in conducting a full investigation on the officers involved, including researching their background, personnel files, and obtaining internal investigation and use of force reports. In addition, we will help guide you in protecting your rights by photographing all your injuries, obtaining your medical records, and photographing the scene and searching for additional witnesses. Contact the Law Offices of John D. Rogers today to speak with an experienced Newport Beach criminal defense lawyer. Call us today for a free confidential consultation concerning your rights and defenses.

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Legal Footnotes:

[1] Penal Code 69 defined: “(a) Every person who attempts, by means of any threat or violence, to deter or prevent an executive officer from performing any duty imposed upon the officer by law, or who knowingly resists, by the use of force or violence, the officer, in the performance of his or her duty, is punishable by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170, or in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both such fine and imprisonment.”

[2] https://www.justia.com/criminal/docs/calcrim/2600/2652/

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