Resisting & Obstructing

Resisting & Obstructing a Police Officer

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The crime of assaulting, resisting, or obstructing a police officer is unique because although it is defined by statute1 the Michigan Supreme Court has affirmed the common-law right to resist illegal police conduct, including unlawful arrests and unlawful entries into constitutionally protected areas.2 Practically speaking, that means that the prosecution must also prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer’s actions were lawful. For example, if you’re charged with resisting an arrest Grand Traverse County, the Government has to prove not only that you resisted and that the officer was wearing a recognizable police uniform, but that the arrest itself was lawful. That means that if the officer didn’t have probable cause to arrest you in the first place, you may be able to prevail at trial, even if in fact you resisted, assaulted or obstructed that officer.

Many prosecutors, police officers and even some judges have been known to gloss over the common law element of lawfulness of the officer’s actions. This is true even after the seminal decision in People v Moreno. It is very important to enter the preliminary examination in these types of cases armed with the caselaw and a strong argument applying it to the facts.

Over the past half decade the criminal defense attorneys at Mas/Stig-Nielsen have successfully represented numerous clients in Northern Michigan charged with assaulting, resisting, or obstructing a police officer. We have developed a specific legal strategy for dealing with these types of cases. We ensure that we gather as much discoverable information as possible prior to the preliminary examination. This allows us to scrutinize police footage, records, dispatch logs and other records to reconstruct the environment and scene from the time of the arrest to show what was said, how it was said, and exactly what transpired.

In places such as Benzie, Wexford and Grand Traverse counties we have forced the Government’s hand and secured both complete dismissals as well as favorable misdemeanor plea resolutions for clients charged with multiple counts of these two year felony offenses. If you are charged with resisting and obstructing or assaulting a police officer we can help you achieve the best possible outcome in your case.

What Are the Obstructing a Police Officer Sentencing Guidelines in MI?

In Michigan, the act of obstructing a police officer involves at least one of the following:

  • Intentional failure to obey a lawful command
  • Using or threatening to use physical force or interference against a police officer who is discharging their lawful duty.

It’s an aggressive statute that can result in borderline misconduct like failure to obey a police officer being charged as a felony. Even if your actions are not technically illegal, they can be misinterpreted as obstructive by a stressed or angry law enforcement officer, leaving you with a criminal record you don’t deserve.

Under MCL 750.479, which is state law, anyone found guilty of obstructing a police officer can face the following maximum penalties:

  • If injury or medical attention do not result: Two years and/or a $2,000 fine.
  • If the officer requires medical attention: Four years and/or a $5,000 fine.
  • If serious injury results: 10 years and/or a $10,000 fine.
  • If death results: 20 years and/or a $20,000 fine.

Typically, a person found guilty under this statute will be sentenced using the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines. These guidelines review factors like the following to determine an appropriate sentence.

  • The nature of the current offense.
  • Your past record. For each misdemeanor or felony conviction, points are assigned, even for prior juvenile adjudications.
  • Whether you were in the justice system at the time of the alleged offense.
  • Certain offense variables, such as whether the officer was physically injured.

Michigan law has changed to consider guidelines “advisory,” which means they are no longer mandatory. A judge may sentence you above or below the guideline range.

Before you plead guilty, talk to a resisting arrest lawyer who can speak to the judge and get a good idea of what kind of sentence you may be facing. Your attorney may pursue a Cobbs agreement that lets you withdraw your plea and go to trial if the judge does not impose the agreed-upon sentence.

Is the Punishment for Assaulting a Police Officer Harsher than Aggravated Assault?

Aggravated Assault is criminal assault accompanied by circumstances that make it more severe. Aggravated assault is punishable by up to one (1) year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

MCL 750.81a defines aggravated assault as assaulting someone without a weapon and inflicting serious or aggravated injury without intending to commit murder or inflict serious bodily harm. In this case, a ‘serious or aggravated injury’ is one that requires immediate medical treatment or causes health issues, disfigurement or impairment of a body part.

In most cases, aggravated assault is a misdemeanor punished by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine for a first offender. Subsequent offenses are prosecuted as felonies and punished by up to five years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine.

When an aggravated assault involves a police officer, you face up to two years in prison and/or a $2,000 fine at the very least. If the officer was seriously injured, you could be imprisoned for up to 15 years, and an aggravated assault ending in death carries a sentence of up to 20 years. When your aggravated assault charges involve a police officer, don’t face them alone: get help immediately from a resisting arrest attorney in the Traverse City area.

Is Resisting Arrest a Felony in MI?

If you are charged under state law, resisting arrest is a felony with a penalty of two years in prison and a $2,000 fine. If the police officer is injured and requires immediate medical attention during the incident, you can spend four years in prison. The potential sentence is increased to 15 years if the officer suffers a serious impairment of a body function, and if the incident results in the officer's death, you could be sentenced to 20 years.

With so many variables involved, anyone charged with resisting and obstructing a police officer in the Traverse City area should immediately call a Michigan criminal defense attorney to protect their rights.

1 MCL 750.81d.
2 People v Moreno, 491 Mich 38; 814 NW2d 624 (2012)



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