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Resisting Arrest in Colorado

Resisting Arrest is a Class 2 Misdemeanor in Colorado, punishable by up to 364 days in jail, and as such cannot be taken lightly. If you have been charged with resisting arrest, it is imperative that you consult with an attorney to protect your rights. Patterson Weaver Law is an experienced Criminal Defense firm with decades of experience handling this type of case.

For many, the term “resisting arrest” recalls an image from movies or TV where Johnny McBadguy, cornered by police officers, tries to fight his way through the cops to escape, rather than allowing himself to be taken into handcuffs and led to a squad car. Admittedly, those scenarios do occur from time to time, but the facts surrounding most arrests in Colorado are often more complicated than that. What happens if Mr. McBadguy was not trying to stop his own arrest, but that of a friend at a political protest? What happens when an off-duty Sheriff’s Deputy, privately employed as a security guard at a water park, tries to arrest McBadguy for breaking park rules? Could Mr. McBadguy be convicted of resisting arrest under those circumstances?

What is Considered Resisting Arrest?

Colorado Revised Statutes (“CRS”) section 18-8-103 presently (2020) reads as follows:

(1) A person commits resisting arrest if he knowingly prevents or attempts to prevent a peace officer, acting under color of his official authority, from effecting an arrest of the actor or another, by:

  • Using or threatening to use physical force or violence against a peace officer or another; or
  • Using any other means which creates a substantial risk of causing bodily injury to the peace officer or another.

(2) It is no defense to a prosecution under this section that the peace officer was attempting to make an arrest which in fact was unlawful, if he was acting under the color of his official authority, and in attempting to make the arrest he was not resorting to unreasonable or excessive force giving rise to the right of self-defense. A peace officer acts “under the color of his official authority” when, in the regular course of assigned duties, he is called upon to make, and does make, a judgment in good faith based on surrounding facts and circumstances that an arrest should be made by him.

(3) The term “peace officer” is used in this section and section 18-8-104 means a peace officer in uniform or, if out of uniform, one who has identified himself by exhibiting his credentials as such peace officer to the person whose arrest is attempted.

(4) Resisting arrest is a class 2 misdemeanor.

What Does That Mean?

Essentially, Colorado law prohibits you from interfering with a peace officer who is attempting to make an arrest (of you or another person), by force (or the threat of force) or violence; or any other manner which creates a risk of bodily injury to the officer(s).

Criminal statutes can be difficult to understand; they often contain a lot of “lawyer language” that people do not ordinarily use in everyday conversations, such as “acting under the color of his authority.” Allow us to break the statutory language down.

CRS 18-8-103(3) tells us that “peace officer” means any law enforcement officer in uniform, or someone who has identified themselves as an officer of the law and provided credentials (think of a police detective flashing a badge while wearing a suit).

CRS 18-8-103(1) states that even the threat of the use of force or violence to interfere with a peace officer who was doing his/her job and trying to make an arrest (of you or anyone else), would be considered “resisting arrest.”

CRS 18-8-103(2) makes clear that even if the arrest was unlawful, you still may not interfere with a peace officer who was acting in good faith and properly doing his job. However, if the peace officer is not acting in his capacity as an officer, or using unreasonable or excessive force, the law implies that self-defense could be used.

What are the Legal Penalties in Colorado?

In Colorado, resisting arrest is a Class 2 Misdemeanor. Under current Colorado law, a conviction for resisting arrest is punishable by a sentence of 3 to 12 months in jail, and/or a fine between $250 and $1,000.

Remember that these potential penalties are in addition to the penalties that could be imposed in any other offense for which you were originally being arrested. It is also possible (if not probable) that if the peace officer was injured during this process, you could be charged with assault on a police officer pursuant to CRS 18-3-202, which is a felony. If you have been charged with either of these counts, the best course of action is securing legal counsel as soon as possible to protect your rights and your freedom.

What to Do in Case of an Unlawful Arrest

As made clear above, unless the peace officer was acting outside of his normal assigned duties, or was using unreasonable or excessive force, you may not interfere with the officer attempting to make an arrest. Even when the arrest was later determined to be unlawful, that would not be a defense to a charge of resisting arrest. It is bad enough that you or a friend were going to be arrested; do not make a bad situation worse by interfering with a peace officer who was properly doing his job. It is not a defense to claim “unlawful arrest,” nor is it a defense to claim that the crime for which you were arrested was never committed (even if that were true). Resisting such an arrest would be punishable by law.

Remember, under Colorado law, if the peace officer was:

  • Acting under color of his official authority, in good judgment while making the arrest, and
  • Not resorting to excessive force warranting self-defense, the arrest is not unlawful.

The arrest is only truly unlawful in cases where the officer attempting to make the arrest is using excessive force or engaging in police brutality. Under those limited circumstances, your right to self-defense (or defense of others) still applies. That being said, the law can be tricky. Not all force used by the officer making an arrest is recognized as excessive or unreasonable. If you believe you were unlawfully arrested, there are remedies for you down the road; what you cannot do is behave rashly or violently, as that conduct may result in additional charges.

Probable Cause to Make an Arrest

For a peace officer to make an arrest, they must have probable cause to believe that you have committed a crime. Officers will need to make a showing to a judge that there was a valid reason to file charges and make the arrest. Police officers often develop probable cause to make an arrest easily. If an officer simply testifies that you were resisting arrest, it can be difficult to overcome that testimony. However, many police departments today use body cams which can be used to call into question an officer’s version of events.

Contact an Experienced Colorado Springs Defense Attorney Today

Were you charged with resisting arrest in Colorado? Let us help. Consult a defense attorney with a successful track record. Patterson Weaver Law works hard to protect you and your future. Call Patterson Weaver Law now to arrange a free consultation.

Patterson Weaver Law serves Teller County, El Paso County, Pueblo County, Fremont County, Elbert County, Park County, as well as surrounding areas.

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