Resisting Arrest Can Be Assault, TooBeing arrested stinks. There’s no way around it. It doesn’t matter what you did (or are accused of doing) or how it’s done — few things are more humiliating and demeaning than having to get into the back of that car. It’s only natural to want to resist that sort of thing, especially if the arresting officers think you did something that warrants strong force and aggression.

Unfortunately, resisting arrest isn’t exactly something you can legally do, no matter how innocent you are or how unfair it is. And if you make the mistake of trying to physically defend yourself, all you’re doing is making things worse for yourself in a big, big way. Cops don’t just assume you’re guilty — they WANT you to be. They will treat you as if you are and use anything unsavory about your reactions as proof, and as permission. What may have started off as a simple arrest for one crime can turn into further risk of your life and overall safety and newer, severe charges.

What does resisting arrest actually mean?

If you’re under arrest, it means the cops have (or believe they have) reasonable suspicion that you committed a crime, whether via a warrant or their own “discovery.” You’re going to want to kick and scream and fight (especially if you genuinely didn’t do anything) but taking advantage of the rights you do have is much more effective at keeping you out of jail. In other words, stay silent, get an attorney.

Resisting arrest is, in and of itself, a crime. It’s a misdemeanor, but it can still get you three years in prison without any other charges present — and if you’re being arrested, there are obviously other charges. In other words, the consequences of resisting arrest are added onto the consequences of whatever you were arrested for (if you get convicted). The other bad news is that it’s the cops’ word against yours. If you were just asking questions or asserting your rights or (gasp!) reflexively flinching at rough treatment, they can accuse you of resisting. This is part of why remaining calm and silent is so important. They CAN AND WILL use anything that happens against you in court, and they WANT it to happen.

Self-defense only works when it’s not against cops

Speaking of things cops can use against you, being arrested is one situation where you cannot claim self-defense (or, at least, not in a way court takes seriously without an incredibly strong case for it from your attorney). If you’re being needlessly attacked and injured by an arresting officer, and you fight back in any way whatsoever, they will slap you with resisting arrest AND assaulting an officer (which is a felony, by the way). Not only that, but they may take your physical resistance as “permission” to be even rougher, because obviously you’re asking for it. If you use reasonable force to resist unfair treatment from an officer, you DO technically have the right to claim self-defense, but it is incredibly difficult to prove (on purpose). Courts side with cops, almost every time and especially without a strong attorney backing your claims.

Even if you’re not being beaten but you dare show too much physical resistance to your arrest, you could suddenly be facing a felony assault charge against an officer. If they react strongly enough on their body cams, they can sometimes get away with pretending a lot more resistance happened than in reality. Assault charges are serious, life-altering charges but it absolves the cops, and that is all they are looking for.

How does assault work in Annapolis?

While every state is a little different, the majority of them (including Maryland) section assault charges by severity with first-degree being the most severe and second being the lesser. The specifics of your case determine which level your alleged crime falls on, and neither option is desirable. First-degree assault is a felony that can get you put behind bars for 25 years, and refers to intentional acts of (or plans to cause) severe bodily harm, with or without a firearm. Anything outside of that criteria is classified as second-degree, but that is still a felony with a potential 10 years in prison — not to mention all the collateral consequences from having a conviction like that on your personal record.

It is second-degree assault that cops will charge you with, usually alongside resisting arrest. Annapolis law specifically names physically injuring an officer acting within their official duties as an example of second-degree assault, without the severity of the injury or the way in which it happened really mattering at all. Cops know this, and boy, are they counting on it.

Being charged with assault in Annapolis isn’t even the only concern

So, here’s the thing. I wanted to find you just one or two examples of Maryland police taking perceived resistance or attack as permission to engage in brutality, and — I am not exaggerating — I found so many examples I had to LIMIT THEM TO FOUR. This happens all the time. And I want to be clear: they’re not attacking suspects OR charging them with assault, they’re doing BOTH. All four of my examples, all arrested parties involved — resisting arresting and second-degree assault.

Boom. Boom. Bam. Bang. Our first example shows the defendant trying to appeal all these charges, largely unsuccessfully. Our second example, the one truly violent offender (though clearly in need of treatment and not brutality) is charged with second AND first degree assault AND resisting arrest, on top of the charges he had already. In our third, teenagers were being repeatedly kneed in the chest and attacked over vaping in the wrong spot (and then trying to defend their friends), and all of them got resisting arrest and second-degree assault. If that isn’t horrific enough, our fourth example details a man being pinned down and beaten by cops — also for vaping in the wrong place. He doesn’t even fight back according to the report, but he faces charges of second-degree assault and resisting arrest regardless.

Judge Clayton Greene of Maryland confirmed in a similar case that the criteria for resisting arrest and committing assault are often the same, and are thus treated as the same, but as you see, you can still be charged with both at the same time. This essentially means they can compound the consequences as much as they want, and tarnish your record permanently to boot.

Any assault convictions can ruin your life

Violent crimes are taken seriously for a good reason, but when the law is enforced by prejudiced, angry, flawed humans, even being innocent or simply defending yourself can’t save you from treatment that is WAY harsher than necessary, nor can it save you for being punished further. Once they assume you committed a violent crime (or pretend you did), there is just nothing good you can do for yourself aside from remaining calm, keeping quiet, and remembering everything to tell your attorney.

Remember that prison time and fines aren’t the only consequences of an assault conviction. You’ll be unable to vote or own firearms, yes, but you’ll also have a much harder time finding a place to live or a job to hire you, or a bank to loan to you, or a car dealer to sell to you. Not to mention any friends or family could find out and make their own conclusions (especially if they’re people newer to your life). Your criminal record is public and it is not hard to find.

There is never a guarantee you’ll avoid a conviction, but hiring a criminal defense attorney you can trust gives you the highest possible chance. At Drew Cochran, Attorney at Law, I’ve been fighting on behalf of my clients for fair and reasonable treatment and a trial that accurately represents your situation. If you’re in Annapolis or Ellicott City and you’re facing compounded charges after a messy arrest, call or contact me today. Hell, if you’re facing any assault charges at all, call me. I am here to help, and I know how to — every step of the way.

Just remember — Keep Calm, and Call Drew.