Monday, March 23, 2015

In a world of hyper-aggressive and sensitive cops, what acts constitute legitimate cases of resisting arrest?

Liberty Duke
 Please trust me when I say there is nothing fun about being roughed up by Alabama sheriff deputies--inside your own home, on a civil matter--and hauled off to jail for five months. But a reader did manage to find something amusing about that scenario the other day--and it helps drive home an important point of law that we've never addressed.

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 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.

Rob Riley
Were the acts noted above present in my resisting arrest case? A quick look at Officer Blevins incident report (which can be read at the end of this post) shows the answer is no.

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.


Anonymous said...

Yours sounds like another case of "contempt of cop."

legalschnauzer said...

You are probably right, @10:32, even though I didn't show any contempt. I did refuse to come outside, as he asked, and I told him to get out of my garage. But any cop should expect that when he doesn't show a warrant or say he even has a warrant.

As the law says, we have a duty to resist an unlawful arrest--and this one was.

Anonymous said...

Do you wish now you had just stepped outside like the officer asked?

legalschnauzer said...

No, because he neither said nor showed me anything that indicated he had authority to make me go outside, when I was already in my own house.

I've spent my life respecting people in authority, but this guy gave me no reason to believe he had authority over me.

Unknown said...

As a friend puts it... "I respect authority too much to tolerate abuse of authority."

Michelle said...

I'll never get over being falsely accused, harassed, arrested, shackled, handcuffed and laughed at by Georgia police. In the midst of my very nasty divorce from a railroad assistant vice president, within 39 days I was arrested several times, incarcerated in three Georgia jails and involuntarily committed to a state hospital while my son had supposedly turned up dead in Alabama. Records show that while I was incarcerated his body was shipped back to Georgia and because i was incarcerated, I couldn't identify his body. I can't believe this kind of thing could happen in the USA whose military has fought foreign wars to protect people from inhumane abuses like these.

These kinds of abusive situations create a human condition that must be comparable to P.T.S.D. where you can never shake the memories and get on with your life. It's a wound that will not heal.

Everything I ever believed in and all the love and respect I had for my country and all that it's stood for, and pride from all my ancestors who fought every war, defending every just cause– it all died in Georgia in 1998 with the report that my son was dead, and with all the shackles and handcuffs I endured in the midst of it.

I've followed your story and because you told the truth, you've been punished.

In America, when power and money wants a little person punished, then a little person is going to be punished and - silenced, one way or another. Roger I'll say what has been said to me numerous times, "You're lucky to still be alive."

My son's body did not match the autopsy report. They're lying and it's fraud. He was abducted and he knew his father had a mistress and that his father had lied to police. He had to be removed from the situation for what he knew in the midst of the pending Cobb County, Georgia divorce.

Although we may never find justice nor afford it financially, we can never let these stories die. If we do then our children and grandchildren are destined to suffer – victimized by the same tactics which have been used against us.

(Again,) Thank you for standing up for the truth, Roger.

legalschnauzer said...

Sorry to hear about your experience, Michelle. You really do wonder what country we are living in sometimes.