When you see flashing police lights in your rearview mirror, your first instinct might be to flee. Unfortunately, eluding the police or resisting arrest are both criminal offenses in New Jersey. Those convicted face substantial penalties that can impact their lives for years.
Fortunately, a New Jersey criminal defense attorney might be able to raise certain defenses on your behalf. You should contact the Law Office of Matthew V. Portella, LLC as soon as possible to gain a thorough understanding of your legal options.
N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2 is the resisting arrest statute in New Jersey. It defines resisting arrest as purposely preventing or trying to prevent law enforcement from making an arrest. Examples include fighting or grappling with the officer, fleeing or running away from an officer, or even ignoring the officer’s commands to do something, such as putting your hands behind your back.
Penalties are steep. Although this is only a disorderly person‘s offense, you could still end up in jail for a maximum of six months. Resisting arrest can also be considered a felony in certain circumstances. While it is oftentimes considered a disorderly persons offense, resisting becomes a felony if the person resisting arrest runs away from law enforcement. Fleeing law enforcement can result in up to 18 months in prison.
Depending on the facts of your arrest, you could face enhanced charges. For example, if you attacked an officer or otherwise threatened violence, you face up to five years in prison for a third-degree crime. The same is true if you created a substantial risk of injury to anyone else, such as a pedestrian or other motorist as you fled in a high-speed chase.
Eluding the Police
Eluding the police is a subset of resisting arrest, which consists of fleeing or trying to flee law enforcement after receiving some sort of signal to stop. This signal could be flashing lights if you are driving, or an officer shouting “stop!” if you are walking on foot. Either way, you don’t stop but instead, try to outrun the cops. Often, a high-speed chase involving multiple police vehicles ensues.
Eluding the police is a serious offense. The penalties will depend on the circumstances. For example, if you flee with a motor vehicle or a boat, you can be charged with a crime of the third degree. If you create a risk of injury or death to anyone (including the officer), you face charges for a crime of the second degree. As with almost every other crime, eluding the police has different penalties based on the severity of the crime.
- License Suspensions: Depending on the severity of the elusion, your license may be suspended for a period of time between six months and two years.
- Disorderly Persons Offense: This is the lowest classification of elusion and is a misdemeanor. This offense can result in up to six months in prison and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
- Fourth-Degree Offense: A fourth-degree offense is considered a felony and can result in up to 18 months in prison with a fine of up to $10,000.
- Third-Degree Offense: This classification is considered a felony and brings with it a three-five year prison sentence and/or a fine of up to $15,000.
- Second-Degree Offense: Elusion in the second-degree is a felony in New Jersey and penalties are severe. Fines of up to $150,000 and/or a prison sentence of five to ten years.
Those resisting arrest might also be convicted of other offenses, such as:
- Hindering (N.J.S.A. 2C:29-3). This law criminalizes doing anything which hinders the apprehension of a suspect and can include using force to prevent or obstruct arrest. While it is often charged as a crime of the second degree, hindering can be charged as a felony in the fourth and third degree. In some cases, hindering may not qualify as a felony and can be charged as a disorderly persons offense.
- A second-degree hindering charge can result in imprisonment for five to ten years without the possibility of parole.
- A third-degree offense is punishable by incarceration for three to five years with the possibility of parole.
- A fourth-degree offense is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and incarceration for up to 18 months.
- A disorderly persons offense is punishable by county jail time for a period of up to six months.
- Obstruction of Justice (NJSA 2C:29-1). Any attempt to purposely impair or obstruct an arrest through means of flight, violence, intimidation, or physical interference could violate this statute and be charged as a crime of the fourth degree. If the offense does not meet the above requirements, it could be cited as a disorderly persons offense.
- Disorderly Conduct (N.J.S.A. 2C:33-2). Fighting or threatening violence in public can bring a disorderly conduct charge. It is a petty disorderly person‘s offense but could still result in fines up to $500 and jail up to 30 days.
Remember, you can face penalties for multiple crimes all arising out of the same encounter with the police.
Can You Defend Against These Charges?
Yes. However, we need to learn more about the surrounding circumstances. For example, you might have been momentarily confused about who the police were talking to. This is common when out on the street with a lot of people around. The fact that you didn’t immediately stop doesn’t mean you were eluding the police.
The prosecution always has the burden of proving cases beyond a reasonable doubt. Sometimes we can create doubt about whether you were trying to resist arrest. You might have refused to comply with the police because you were in physical pain or were having some type of medical emergency.
Some defendants believe they can argue that the arrest was illegal because they did not commit the crime of which the police suspected them. For example, the police officer might have turned on his overhead lights because he suspected you were driving drunk. The fact that you were completely sober doesn’t excuse your attempt to elude the police or resist in any way. In fact, resisting arrest due to the assumption or belief that the arrest is wrongful is not a valid defense and could result in actual criminal charges.
Speak with a Criminal Defense Attorney
No resisting arrest charge is too minor. A criminal conviction could follow you around and negatively impact you for the remainder of your life, so you should consider fighting the charges. Call the Law Office of Matthew V. Portella today. Our law firm is dedicated to defending people just like you against eluding or resisting arrest charges. Contact us for a free consultation.