We wrote on March 9 about the tendency of cops, in a world where cameras and microphones catch many of their actions, to use certain magic phrases that make it seem a suspect is resisting. With that in mind, I noted that Shelby County Deputy Chris Blevins can be heard on a video of my arrest repeatedly saying, "Don't fight me, don't fight me"--even though his own incident report indicates I wasn't fighting him.
A reader noticed the disparity between the words Blevins spoke and the words he wrote on his report, which we ran at the bottom of our post, and responded with this comment:
I know this was unpleasant for you, LS, but it's kind of funny to see that Officer Blevins was shouting "Don't fight me!" while he states on his report that he was throwing you through boxes multiple times. Who was fighting whom here?
Even I had to chuckle at that. But it raises a serious question: What acts tend to constitute a real case of resisting arrest?
As we noted in our March 9 post, Blevins states multiple times in his report that I was resisting, but he never says what I did that amounted to resisting. He admits that he initiated physical contact with me, that I never turned away from him as if to escape, that my only physical act was to raise my arms in front of my face for protection.
So how on earth did I get hit with resisting arrest--and convicted, resulting in a fine of $845? The only answer to that question, in my case, is that we are talking about Shelby County, Alabama, a place where corruption has reigned for so long that law-enforcement and legal types probably have forgotten what it's like to conduct their affairs in an honest fashion.
But what about a jurisdiction that at least puts on a reasonable show of trying to dispense justice? Even a lot of lawyers find many resisting-arrest cases to be dubious. Ken White, a California lawyer who writes at the Popehat blog, says they often are referred to as "contempt of cop."
But what acts should give rise to a real resisting arrest case? Most statutes, including the one in Alabama, are vague on that question. But it appears that case law provides some guidance. The best information I've found comes from an article titled "Possible defenses to resisting arrest charges" at attorneys.com. From the article:
Resisting arrest is usually defined as intentionally preventing a police officer from lawfully arresting or handcuffing you or taking you to jail. Here are some things that can be considered resisting arrest:
* Physical acts, such as running away, hiding, or struggling with the officer
* Giving false identification, either verbally or by presenting a fake ID
* Trying to help another person avoid arrest
* Threatening the officer
Being slow to comply with an order or swearing at an officer is not, by itself, usually enough to warrant resisting arrest charges. Neither is questioning an officer's actions or authority before ultimately complying with requests.
The article goes on to state that, as we showed in a post last week, you can't be charged with resisting an arrest that was unlawful in the first place. And mine was unlawful on multiple grounds--starting with the fact that it was based on a preliminary injunction in a defamation lawsuit, which has constituted an unlawful prior restraint under First Amendment law for more than 200 years.
Chris Blevins was in my garage only because Alabama GOP political figures Rob Riley and Liberty Duke sought a preliminary injunction that is wildly contrary to law--and Claud Neilson, a corrupt hack of a judge, let them get away with it.
I didn't run away or hide or struggle with him (unless being thrown through two stacks of boxes counts as struggling); I didn't give false ID; I didn't threaten or curse him; and I wasn't slow about complying with any orders because I wasn't given any orders--Blevins didn't state why he was there until after I had been knocked to the concrete floor of my basement three times and maced in the face.
Perhaps my only defiant act came when Blevins asked me to step outside, and I refused, telling him to get out of my garage. He had not shown me a warrant or even said he had a warrant, so I saw no sign that he had grounds to be directing me to do anything.
Yes, there are comical elements to this story, but in the end, it is a serious matter. It's left me with a criminal record for a "crime" I didn't commit. I had lived 56 years on this planet without ever coming close to being arrested for anything.
My record was crystal clean, but now it isn't--all because a rogue cop, who had no lawful grounds to be on my property, concocted a bogus case of "don't fight me."
I intend to do everything in my power to make sure my record gets back to the clean state it once was in. And one way or another, I'm going to hold Chris Blevins, Rob Riley, Liberty Duke, Claud Neilson, and others accountable.