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Is Resisting an Officer a Felony in Florida?

By Hager & Schwartz, P.A.

September 30, 2020

Resisting an officer occurs when a person, in some way, impedes a law enforcement official’s ability to carry out their lawful duty. Such conduct can occur when the officer is trying to make an arrest, but it may be apparent in other situations as well, such as when the officer is attempting to question somebody about an alleged offense.

In Florida, resisting an officer is a crime that can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. The level depends on the severity of the offense.

The Two Laws on Resisting an Officer

Florida has two laws concerning resisting an officer. Though somewhat similar, they vary in the way the resisting occurred.

One statute provides that a person may be charged with resisting if they obstruct an officer carrying out their lawful functions and they do not use violence. For instance, an officer starts approaching a person, and that individual begins to retreat before the officer has had a chance to make their purpose known. In this instance, the offense is a first-degree misdemeanor. A conviction carries a jail term of up to 1 year and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

The second law says that a resisting charge arises when a person impedes a law enforcement official while executing a legal duty. For example, an officer is trying to take a person into custody, and the individual pushes or kicks them to prevent the arrest. The actor must have acted knowingly and willfully for their conduct to be considered an offense. Under this statute, an offense is a third-degree felony. If the individual is found guilty, a court may sentence them to a prison term of no more than 5 years and/or impose a fine not to exceed $5,000.

The Elements of the Offenses

As noted above, the main difference between Florida’s two resisting laws is whether or not violence was committed or attempted against the officer. Otherwise, the elements of the crimes are similar.

Under both statutes:

  • The actor must have resisted, obstructed, or opposed the officer;
  • The officer must have been carrying out their legal duties or a legal process;
  • The officer, at the time of the offense, was authorized to undertake whatever process the actor was resisting; and
  • The actor knew that person they resisted was an officer

The law doesn’t just apply to police officers.

It also concerns:

  • Correctional officers,
  • Probation officers,
  • Auxiliary law enforcement and probation officers,
  • Parole and probation supervisors,
  • Members of the Florida Commission on Offender Review,
  • Department of Law Enforcement personnel, and
  • Others lawfully authorized to carry out legal duties

If you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor or felony in Daytona Beach, contact Hager & Schwartz, P.A. at (386) 693-1637 today. We’ll develop a custom-fit strategy for your specific needs.