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Massachusetts Resisting Arrest Laws

Police officers are required to engage in specific procedures while making an arrest. The citizens who are under arrest must also conform to certain behavior and must not interfere with the impending arrest. Otherwise they can be detained for resisting arrest.

In Massachusetts, you can be charged with resisting arrest when you prevent an officer from arresting you or another person. For example, a man puts his finger in an officer's face as he attempts to arrest the man's spouse. The outcome of the charges will depend on the circumstances of the encounter, including the actions of the police and the actions and knowledge of the perpetrator.

Resisting Arrest: Actions of the Police

The law requires that police must have the intent to make an arrest and be in the process of making an arrest for resisting arrest laws to apply. The officer must also be acting within the scope of their duties and must have a good faith judgment to make an arrest.

Police officers may not use excessive force during the arrest. However, they can use the amount of force necessary to restrain the person. This is a subjective standard based on the officer's good faith judgment.

Actions and Knowledge of the Perpetrator

In circumstances in which the officer might have used excessive force, the perpetrator can claim self-defense. In order to prevail with this defense, the defendant must prove that they reasonably believed that the officer acted with excessive force and that the defendant did everything they could do to avoid physical contact before using force.

The arrestee must also know that the person making the arrest is in fact a law enforcement official. The officer can be in or out of uniform, but if they are out of uniform, the officer must show credentials of identification such as a badge.

Review of Massachusetts Resisting Arrest Laws

Although Massachusetts' resisting arrest statute is short and relatively straightforward for legal text, the concepts are complex and breaking them down is helpful for better comprehension. See the chart below for a review of the law that governs resisting arrest in Massachusetts.


Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 268, Section 32B


What's Prohibited



An individual can't knowingly prevent or attempt to prevent a police officer (while the officer is performing their duties) from making an arrest of the individual or another by:

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

Unlawful Arrest is No Defense

If you're charged with resisting arrest, it doesn't matter that the arrest that the officer attempts to make was unlawful. Unlawful arrest is not a valid defense to the crime.

Possible Penalties

  • Imprisonment in jail or house of correction for up to 2 ½ years;
  • Fine up to $500;
  • Or both.

Related Offense

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Massachusetts Resisting Arrest Laws: Related Resources

Facing Resisting Arrest Charges? Connect with a Defense Attorney

It can be challenging to defend a resisting arrest case because the perspectives of the officer and the citizen can vary drastically. If you're facing resisting arrest charges in Massachusetts, then do yourself a favor and connect with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can mount a strategically sound defense on your behalf.

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