What Constitutes Resisting Arrest in Colorado?

by | Mar 25, 2017 | Criminal Defense

No one wants to be arrested. When a Colorado police officer slaps handcuffs on you and starts reading you your Miranda rights, you may be understandably angry, shocked, and scared, especially if you think you’re being wrongfully arrested. When those intense emotions turn into physical acts that threaten or injure the arresting officer, the alleged crime you are being arrested for will be joined by a charge of resisting arrest. This can make an already bad situation worse.

Why am I being charged with resisting arrest?

Threats or Violence During Arrest

The crime of resisting arrest in Colorado is governed by 18-8-103 (1) C.R.S. which provides that a person commits resisting arrest if he knowingly prevents or attempts to prevent a peace officer, acting under color of his official authority, from effecting an arrest of the actor or another, by:

  • Using or threatening to use physical force or violence against the peace officer or another; or
  • Using any other means which creates a substantial risk of causing bodily injury to the peace officer or another.

Note that you can be charged with resisting arrest even if the officer is attempting to arrest someone else.

Only On-Duty Cops Can Be the Basis of a Resisting Arrest Charge

You cannot be convicted of resisting arrest unless the officer was in uniform or, if out of uniform, has identified himself by exhibiting his credentials as a peace officer to the person whose arrest is attempted. Similarly, the officer must be acting “under color of his official authority” when the arrest is being made. This means, for example, that if you resist the efforts of an off-duty cop working as a private security guard, you cannot be convicted of resisting arrest.

What About Unlawful Arrests?

People in Colorado are unlawfully arrested every single day. But an unlawful arrest does not give you the right to resist that arrest. Under Colorado law, “it is no defense to a prosecution [for resisting arrest] that the peace officer was attempting to make an arrest which in fact was unlawful, if he was acting under color of his official authority, and in attempting to make the arrest he was not resorting to unreasonable or excessive force giving rise to the right of self-defense.”

As set forth above, there is an important distinction between an arrest which is unlawful in the sense that there is no lawful basis for the arrest and an arrest which is unlawful in the sense that the arresting officer is using excessive force or engaged in brutality. In the latter situation, the person being arrested retains their right to self-defense so long as they don’t act with more force than is reasonably necessary to protect themselves from any violence being inflicted upon them by the officer. Remember, however, that not all force used by an officer to effect an arrest will be considered “unreasonable or excessive”.

If you believe you are being arrested unlawfully, there will be a time and place to raise that issue and challenge the officer’s actions. But trying to make your case by resisting an officer making an arrest is not the time and not the place to do so.

Punishment for Resisting Arrest in Colorado Springs

In Colorado, resisting arrest is a class 2 misdemeanor. This means that upon conviction, you can be sentenced to 3-12 months in jail, and/or a fine of $250-$1,000. This is on top of any punishment imposed if you are convicted of the underlying crime you were being arrested for.

The crime of resisting arrest only applies to violence or threats made during the course of the arrest. However, after the arrest is made, a person in custody who uses violence against a peace officer commits second degree assault in Colorado Springs which carries a mandatory prison term followed by a period of mandatory parole.

If you have been charged with resisting arrest in Colorado, it is important that you contact an experienced Colorado criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to protect your rights and your freedom.

James Newby

James Newby

James Newby is a criminal defense attorney in Colorado Springs and the managing attorney of the criminal justice law firm James Newby Law. James got into law because of a deep-rooted passion for helping good people that may have made a poor choice that could have lasting consequences.