The New Jersey statute that deals with resisting arrest is N.J.S. 2C:29-2a. Resisting arrest occurs when a person purposely prevents, or attempts to prevent, a law enforcement officer from making an arrest.
All resisting arrest charges are serious. The level of seriousness, however, depends upon the nature of the resisting. In two situations, resisting arrest is a third degree crime. The first situation is where the accused individual uses, or threatens to use, force against the officer. The second situation is where the accused indivdual creates a substantial risk of physical injury to the officer or to anyone else. Where resisting arrest arise merely by fleeing, it is a fourth degree crime. And where none of the “special” circumstances just described exists, resisting arrest is a disorderly persons offense.
In New Jersey, a person can be convicted of resisting arrest even when the arrest itself was unlawful. New Jersey requires that the person submit to the arrest, lawful or not, and deal with the legalities later. To constitute resisting arrest, however, the statute does require the officer to identify himself as an officer, and to announce his intention to make the arrest. This announcement must be made before the resisting.
Police officers sometimes use excessive force in making an arrest. On other occasions, they use force where none is required. When the person being arrested, or assaulted, defends himself, the officer tacks on a charge of resisting arrest. A typical situation where this occurs is when a person is actually “guilty” of nothing more than disrespect to the officer (“contempt of cop”). These situations are more prevalent in inner cities, and with minorities like blacks and Hispanics, and males with long hair.
As mentioned above, all resisting charges are serious. Even when “only” a disorderly persons offense, conviction carries a fine and possible jail time. The conviction will be a long-lasting stain on the person's record. That record will be available to prospective employers, landlords, schools, licensing authorities, and professional boards. If you are not a United States Citizen, a conviction may be classified as an “aggravated felony.” This classification can be applied even when New Jersey classifies the resisting arrest as a disorderly persons offense. Conviction for an aggravated felony can preclude a person from obtaining citizenship, and even cause removal from the country. For all of these reasons, citizen or non-citizen, resisting arrest charges in New Jersey must be taken not lightly.
Persons charged with resisting arrest in New Jersey often resign themselves to losing, even when they are in fact not guilty. “It's my word against the cop's, and nobody is going to believe me.” Not true! Methods exist to make the truth come out. But it does require much effort, and a willingness to stand up for what is right. It also requires skilled and dedicated legal representation.
Allan Marain and Norman Epting, Jr. are New Jersey resisting arrest lawyers. The focus of their practice is criminal defense. Their combined experience exceeds sixty-five years. If you have been charged with resisting arrest in New Jersey, they offer a no-charge no-obligation conference. They will tell you, realistically, your options. They are available to talk to you. You should call them.