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Resisting Arrest Charges in Washington

If you're under arrest or stopped by the police, the law provides certain safeguards to govern your encounter. While citizens have civil rights protections that address police misconduct such as false arrests or excessive force, the law also protects the officers making the arrest or the stop. When police conduct an arrest, the officer can use the amount of force necessary to restrain the person. If the person under arrest tries to flee or shows any form of resistance (such as physically struggling with the officer), they could be subject to a resisting arrest charge.

Each state has its own laws for resisting arrest and they can vary quite substantially. In Washington, a resisting arrest charge is a misdemeanor. Although this is a minor charge, circumstances can change which can lead to more serious charges. For instance, if the resistance involves a use of force, the charges can be elevated to an assault in the third degree (assault on a law enforcement officer). Or if you disarm an officer during resistance, you could be facing felony charges.

Summary of Washington Resisting Arrest Laws

While it's best to consult with an attorney for complex cases, you can begin your preliminary research by reading a condensed version of the relevant law. The chart below provides a summary of statutes that comprise Washington's resisting arrest laws, including links to important code sections.


Washington Revised Code:

  • Section 9A:76.040 (resisting arrest)
  • Section 9A:76.020 (obstruction of a law enforcement officer)

Resisting Arrest Offenses



Resisting arrest:

An individual cannot intentionally prevent or attempt to prevent a peace officer from lawfully arresting them. A "peace officer" is any duly appointed city, county, or state law enforcement officer and this can include off-duty officers under certain circumstances.

Obstructing a law enforcement officer:

An individual cannot willfully hinder, delay, or obstruct any law enforcement officer in the performance of their duties. A "law enforcement officer" includes any state peace officer or federal peace officer and other public officers responsible for enforcing fire, building, life, and safety codes.

Examples of obstructing an officer include:

  • Giving false information to a police officer.
  • Giving false identification to an officer.
  • Preventing a fire fighter from gaining access to a fire.

Possible Penalties and Sentencing

  • The actual penalties will depend on the specific facts of the case and are determined by the Sentencing Reform Act and state guidelines.
  • Resisting arrest is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or fines up to $1,000.
  • Obstructing an officer is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and/or fines up to $5,000.

Possible Defenses

  • Defendant acted in self-defense.
  • Officer used excessive force.
  • Officer did not self identify.

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.

Washington Resisting Arrest Laws: Related Resources

Charged with Resisting Arrest in Washington? Seek Legal Help

If you're accused of violating Washington's resisting arrest laws, then you should act in your best interests and get legal help. Even if you're not facing additional charges for an underlying offense, it's best to get a handle on your case and put up a strategically sound defense. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney near you today to get started.

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