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Pennsylvania Resisting Arrest Laws

A cooperative relationship between the police and citizenry is beneficial to all of society. However, there are times when uneasy encounters take place between the police and the very people that they're meant to protect. Real world examples of police misconduct have helped to create a stigma around police officers' actions, especially during arrests.

An officer's main priority should always be to protect and serve the community and they must follow specific procedures when making arrests. As the members of the group that they serve, citizens must also follow certain procedures; the law requires you to comply with what the officers require of you, ensuring that law enforcement officers can do their job. In general, if you actively interfere with an arrest, you can be charged with violating resisting arrest laws.

The laws that define what constitutes resisting arrest vary from state to state. In Pennsylvania, you cannot intentionally prevent public servants from lawfully arresting you, or otherwise interfere with their duties. Additionally, you cannot create a substantial risk of injury to the officer or use means that would require substantial force to stop the resistance.

Lawful Arrest

The underlying arrest that is the subject of the resisting arrest charge must be a lawful arrest under Pennsylvania laws. This means that there had to be probable cause or a valid reason to make the arrest in the first place. If not, you can defend yourself on this basis.

Pennsylvania Resisting Arrest Laws at a Glance

The chart below provides a summary of laws related to Pennsylvania's resisting arrest laws, including links to important code sections.

Statute and Elements of the Crime

18 Pa.C.S. A § 5104

Resisting arrest occurs when you:

  • act with intent to prevent a public servant from effecting a lawful arrest or discharging any other duty to create a substantial risk of bodily injury to the public servant or anyone else; OR
  • employ means justifying or requiring substantial force to overcome the resistance.

Note: "Public servant" means police officer or other law enforcement official, but would not include a private security guard. Also, "lawful arrest" means that the underlying arrest had to be lawful.

Penalties and Sentencing

When you violate Pennsylvania's resisting arrest laws, you commit a second degree misdemeanor. A misdemeanor in the second degree carries a maximum sentence of 2 years imprisonment and fines up to $5000.

Possible Defenses

  • Lack of intent
  • Self defense
  • Officer used excessive force
  • The person was not a "public servant"

Related Offense

18 Pa.C.S.A § 5104.1: Disarming law enforcement officer

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.

Pennsylvania Resisting Arrest Laws: Related Resources

Locate a Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney

If you've been charged with violating Pennsylvania's resisting arrest laws, then you should consider talking to an experienced defense attorney who can help you understand how your case can proceed. Use Findlaw's directory to find a local Pennsylvania attorney.

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