Arrests were made all across the Bay area on Friday night, mostly in conjunction with various protests against police brutality and corruption. However, perhaps the most interesting of these arrests was that of a 36-year old man (name withheld to protect the accused, we’ll just call him “V”) who has been charged with the crime of obstructing an officer for having tripped her during the course of his brutal arrest. He has additionally been charged with misdemeanor battery on an officer.
Many of us have seen the video footage of this very incident and it is still available for viewing online. “V” can clearly be seen peacefully backing away from a male officer, albeit while exercising his right to free speech by screaming profanity. As V turns away from the law enforcement official, however, he accidentally bumps him with the corner of his cellular phone. It was just a moment, but it seemed to happen in slow motion. Suddenly, the officer had V by the neck and was slamming him to the ground while 2 other officers assisted. Meanwhile, other protestors, angry at this display of violence against citizens, threw a small plastic barricade at the arresting officers. The actual ‘obstruction of an officer’ (otherwise known as ‘resisting arrest’) took place as the diminutive female officer on the scene runs to arrest those who threw the barricade (who were also arrested). It is unclear whether V, who was still being held down by 2 officers at the time, intended to trip the female officer as he ran.
It seems more important than ever for citizens to understand what could happen to them if they are charged, rightly or wrongly, with resisting arrest (CA Penal Code 148(a)(1)). California law defines ‘resisting arrest’ more broadly than you might guess. In other words, you need not struggle with a police officer during an arrest to be charged with this crime. For example, you could also ‘delay’ an officer in some way or ‘obstruct’ them in some way from going about their business.
Most interestingly, however, is that you may be charged with a felony if it can be proven that you intended to obstruct an officer in a violent manner. Furthermore, if convicted, you may face up to 1 year in state prison and pay hefty fines.