When resisting arrest becomes a felony
Resisting arrest is a fairly common charge in California, as we saw Tuesday, when Ronda Rousey's coach Edmond Tarverdyan lost his appeal to save his license. In January the California State Athletic Commission had suspended Tarverdyan's cornerman license for three months after it found that he falsified his license application.
The charges arose out of Taverdyan's 2010 arrest by the Glendale Police Department for identity theft and resisting arrest. Tarverdyan had allegedly become combative after the police asked him to exit his vehicle following a traffic stop. The officers deployed a Taser on Tarverdyan, who later pleaded no contest to the charges.
Contrary to popular belief, however, resisting arrest isn't always so dramatic. Anything that interferes with an arrest can lead to charges under Penal Code 148(a)(1) – even lying to a police officer about your identity.
A more typical example is last week's arrest of a northern California man who was discovered with a firearm after a traffic stop. After the officers put handcuffs on him, the man ran away. He was caught and resisting arrest was added to the weapons charges.
But although resisting arrests sounds serious, it's still only a misdemeanor. The maximum punishment under PC 148(a)(1) is one year in county jail and/or a $1,000 fine – enough to warrant retaining a skilled criminal defense attorney, but not one with the serious collateral consequences that result from a felony conviction.
However, there are two similar charges that can be leveled when people put up a fight to avoid arrest. The first is assaulting a peace officer, California Penal Code 241(c). It is simply a regular California assault charge, but with a higher penalty due to the target.
An even more serious charge is California Penal Code 69 – resisting an executive officer. Although it sounds similar to resisting arrest, it's a felony that carries a maximum sentence of three years in jail and/or a $10,000 fine.
Penal Code 69 exists to protect all California officials – not just peace officers – from being prevented from carrying out their official duties by actual or threatened violence.
Thus the charge is actually more akin to assault than to resisting arrest.
Aruguably, the charge could have been filed last week, when a California Highway Patrol officer was stabbed in the neck after detaining a man near a homeless encampment in San Francisco. The man now faces charges including attempted murder and assault of a peace officer. He is being held on $5 million bail.
Or take the Los Angeles man who hit a police officer in the face with a skateboard while officers were trying to subdue him. He now faces felony charges of assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer, assault on a peace officer, and resisting arrest.
The important takeaway, is that if you have been charged with any type of resistance against a police officer or other California official, the consequences are potentially serious. To avoid a lengthy jail sentence and severe curtailment of your civil rights, it is important to consult an attorney as soon as you possible after your arrest.