I often get questions from readers and friends as to exactly what the charge of “resisting arrest” means. I’ve represented many clients on this charge (successfully, avoiding many convictions,) and I can assure you that this area of criminal law can be extremely murky.
The very term “resisting arrest” is a vague one. Exactly what does that mean? Obviously, an act such as physically fighting with a police officer who is attempting to make an arrest would clearly qualify as “resisting.” But assume for a moment that a person were to do something as non-combative as take a step or two back from an officer who was attempting to make an arrest of that person. Would that constitute “resisting” arrest? What about walking away from the officer? What about running away? In my career as a Boston criminal defense lawyer, I’ve seen dozens of scenarios where clients are charged with “resisting arrest.” Some of those charges were justified; many were not.
Essentially, this area of law boils down to a police officer’s power to make an arrest. Depending on the particulars of every given situation, (which are always fact-driven) those powers can be very broad. It is the wide breadth of those powers that can lead to abuses by some police officers. Bear in mind: My writings are not intended to criticize police officers in general, or particular police departments within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The vast majority of police officers are responsible stewards of their authority, and I have great respect and appreciation for a great many of them. But, as is the truth with any occupation or profession, there are always some individuals who abuse their power and positions of authority. That is one reason why criminal courts exist.