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Virginia Resisting Arrest Laws

Protecting civil rights and civil liberties are an important aspect of U.S. laws. These laws ensure that the government and those employed by the government don't take advantage of their power. Civil rights laws protect people in the United States from police misconduct, among other things, which can include the use of excessive force and false arrests. However, despite these rights, it's generally a good idea to avoid resisting a police officer when the officer is arresting you. In fact, pretty much every state - including Virginia - has laws that make it illegal to resist an arrest.

Even though Virginia classifies resisting arrest as a misdemeanor, a conviction still carries the possibility of jail time. Interestingly, Virginia also has another statute that makes it illegal to intentionally point a laser at a law enforcement officer. Of note, in order to violate this statute, the person must know, or at least have reason to know, that the person they point the laser at is a police officer.

Virginia Resisting Arrest Laws at a Glance

While it's important to read the actual law when researching the answer to a legal question, it can also be helpful to read a summary of the law in plain English. The following chart provides an overview of Virginia resisting arrest laws, as well as links to relevant statutes.


Virginia Code Section 18.2-479.1 (Resisting Arrest)

What's Prohibited?

It's prohibited for a person to intentionally prevent or attempt to prevent* a law enforcement officer from lawfully arresting them.

*Intentionally preventing/attempting to prevent means either the officer (1) applies physical force to the person or (2) tells the person that they are under arrest and:

  • The officer has the legal authority and physical ability to arrest the person; and
  • A reasonable person knows (or should know) that they aren't free to leave.
Charges and Penalties

Violating Virginia resisting arrest laws is a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500.

Related Statute(s) Virginia Code Section 18.2-473, et seq. (Escape of, Communications with, and Deliveries to Prisoners)

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.

Virginia Resisting Arrest Laws: Related Resources

If you'd like additional information and resources related to this topic, you can visit the links below.

Charged under Virginia Resisting Arrest Laws? Get Legal Help

Conviction under Virginia's criminal laws can land you in jail and result in a criminal record, which can have a negative impact on many aspects of your life. If you've been charged with resisting arrest or any other crime in Virginia, it's in your best interest to get in touch with a local criminal defense lawyer to discuss your case and plan a defense.

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