In the State of Florida, there are the criminal charges of Resisting an Officer With Violence and Resisting an Officer Without Violence. Resisting an Officer With Violence is a third-degree felony punishable by a maximum of five years in state prison. Resisting an Officer Without Violence is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of 364 days in county jail.
I would like to discuss the most serious of the offenses, the crime of Resisting an Officer With Violence, or sometimes just called "resisting with violence." This offense occurs when:
1) The accused knowingly and willfully resisted, obstructed, or opposed a police officer by offering to do violence, or doing violence.
2) At the time, the alleged victim was engaged in the execution of legal process, or in the lawful execution of a legal duty.
3) At the time, the alleged victim was a police officer.
What does all of this mean?
In plain terms, the State of Florida must prove that the alleged victim, a police officer, was engaged in a legal duty when this crime occurred. In other words, the cop has to be lawfully doing his or her job. If the officer is not actually performing a legal duty, you cannot be charged with Resisting With Violence.
Also, the statute says that you can be charged for offering to do violence. That means, if you are being arrested and you take a swing at the cop but miss, the State will argue that you "offered to do violence."
In criminal defense practice, I see people charged with Resisting With Violence all the time, and usually for no other reason than the fact that the client made the cop angry. The problem with Resisting With Violence cases, however, is that the police officer will likely have final approval over a plea offer in the case. That means, in order to be offered pretrial diversion, the police officer who you allegedly assaulted has the final say.
More often than not, a client charged with Resisting With Violence has suffered a beating at the hands of the police. While it is never smart to fight with, or even threaten to get physical with police officers, there is no justification for police brutality. An agitated client smacking a cop on the shoulder does not deserve to be tasered and beaten to the point of having to go to the hospital. I once had a DUI client who allegedly offered to fight the arresting officer. Now according to the officer's own report, my thin, fifty-year-old client was so drunk he could barely stand up. According to the report, he was hanging onto the car door for balance, swaying this way and that. It seemed like a stiff breeze would have knocked him over. Yet, this cop was apparently so threatened by my client, he beat him to the ground and broke his nose against the asphalt.
While receiving a beating at the hands of police officers is a terrifying concept, it may help your defense tremendously. Talk to a Miami-Dade County criminal defense attorney about any abuse you may have suffered at the hands of law enforcement. Sometimes, a Resisting With Violence charge is a way for abusive cops to cover up their deeds and justify their use of force. What's worse is that a group of police officers may band together and create a phony story and write phony reports. If you don't believe me, check out this Sun-Sentinel article.
This disturbing story shows how police officers can come together to cover up their misdeeds.
Now don't get me wrong. I am not anti-cop. Police officers have very tough jobs and I have great respect for the brave men and women who honor their badges and are humbled by the immense power they carry. On the other hand, I have no respect for macho jerks who use their uniforms as a way to legally bully people around. Like any profession, there are good police officers and bad police officers.
Resisting With Violence, however, is taken seriously by both the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office and the Broward State Attorney's Office. This is because of the close-knit relationship between cops and prosecutors. Prosecutors view cops as members of the same team, and see crimes against law enforcement officers as an affront to justice. For this reason, they may offer jail or even prison time to first-time offenders, just because the "victim" officer says so.
If you find yourself charged with Resisting With Violence, you need a criminal defense attorney who can get to the bottom of what really happened. In Miami-Dade County, only one police agency (City of Pinecrest) uses dashboard cameras. So in most Miami-Dade cases, the only evidence of Resisting With Violence is the cop's own testimony. If your booking photo looks like you've just gone twelve rounds with Mike Tyson, there may be issues with the officer's credibility.
Lots of times, these Resisting With Violence cases are built on shody evidence, yet uninformed or poorly represented people plead guilty to them all the time because they are afraid to take on the police. Don't be. I'm certainly not. I've made a career out of it.
If you need help with your Resisting With Violence case, call me today.