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Tennessee Resisting Arrest Laws

Ideally, an arrest by the police should occur without incident. Unfortunately, there are occasions when an arrest goes awry: the officer didn't follow the proper procedure while making the arrest or the citizen acted in a way that interfered with the officer making the arrest, such as moving erratically, yelling, or physically getting in the officer's way. In cases of an officer's misconduct, a citizen can seek relief and an officer may be disciplined.

But if the civilian's behavior is questionable, they may face charges for resisting arrest. The circumstances under which a person can be charged with resisting arrest vary by state law. In Tennessee, you can be charged with resisting arrest if you resist a stop, halt, or police search. You also can be charged if you obstruct a service processor while you are being served.

Tennessee Resisting Arrest Laws at a Glance

If you're researching laws, then it's critical to know exactly what the statutes mean, especially for criminal matters. Read the chart below for a concise version of Tennessee resisting arrest laws written in everyday terms.


Tennessee Code Annotated Title 39:


Resisting Arrest Offenses


Resisting a stop, frisk, halt, arrest, or search; prevention or obstruction of service of legal writ or process:

  • Individual intentionally prevents or obstructs anyone that they know to be a law enforcement officer, or anyone acting in the officer's presence and at the officer's direction, from effecting a stop, frisk, halt, or arrest of any person by using force against the law enforcement officer or other person.
  • Individual intentionally prevents or obstructs an officer or a person known to be a civil process server in serving, or attempting to serve or execute, any legal writ or process.

Violations are Class B misdemeanors and a Class A misdemeanor if the individual uses a deadly weapon to resist the stop, frisk, halt, arrest, search, or process server.

It is not a defense that the stop, frisk, halt, arrest, or search was unlawful.

Evading an officer:

  • Individual intentionally flees from someone that they know is a law enforcement officer;
  • Knows the officer is attempting to arrest them; or
  • Has been arrested.

Violations are Class A misdemeanors. It is a defense that the attempted arrest was unlawful.

Evading officer: operating a motor vehicle

  • Individual operates a motor vehicle on a state street, road, alley, or highway;
  • A law enforcement officer gives signals to bring the vehicle to a complete stop; and
  • Individual flees from or attempts to escape the officer after receiving the signal.

It is a defense that the attempted arrest was unlawful.

Use of Force

Reasonable Force: Force is reasonable where a law enforcement officer:

  • First gives notice of their identity as a law enforcement official; and
  • Only uses the reasonable force necessary to accomplish the arrest of an individual suspected of a criminal act who resists or flees from the arrest.

Deadly Force: Deadly force can be used by a law enforcement officer when the following criteria are met:

  • The officer has exhausted all other reasonable means of apprehension or all other means are unavailable; and
  • Where feasible, the officer has given notice of their identity as an officer and has given a warning that deadly force may be used unless resistance or flight stops; and
  • The officer has probable cause to believe that the arrestee has committed a felony that involves inflicting or threatened infliction of serious bodily injury or that the arrestee poses an immediate threat of serious bodily injury to the officer or to the others.

Possible Penalties

Class A misdemeanor: Incarceration for up to 11 months, 29 days, fines up to $2,500.

Class B misdemeanor: Incarceration for up to 6 months, fines up to $500.

Class E felony: Incarceration for up to 6 years, fines up to $3,000.

Class D felony: Incarceration for up to 12 years, fines up to $5,000.

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.

Tennessee Resisting Arrest Laws: Related Resources

Facing Tennessee Resisting Arrest Charges? See an Attorney

If you're accused of violating Tennessee's resisting arrest laws, then you should seek counsel to try to get the best possible outcome of your case and to know all your options. Talk to an experienced Tennessee criminal attorney located near you to find out more.

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