Florida Resisting Arrest Laws

Created by FindLaw's team of attorney writers and editors.

The use of excessive force by police is illegal and may be considered a civil rights violation, but it's important to understand that there are instances when police officers are permitted to use reasonable force when making an arrest or stopping the commission of a crime. While making an arrest in Florida, police officers are justified to use any force they reasonably believe is necessary to defend either themselves or another person from bodily harm. Since most states allow for such exceptions, it is important to understand how not to act when being arrested.

To emphasize the importance of protecting police officers, most states have laws that make the act of resisting an arrest a separate crime. In Florida, resisting arrest is separated into two different statutes: resisting arrest with violence and without violence.

Resisting Arrest With Violence vs. Without Violence Under Florida Laws

Florida laws distinguish between resisting arrest with violence and resisting arrest without violence. Resisting arrest with violence occurs when an individual knowingly and willfully obstructs, opposes, or resists an officer by threatening the officer with violence or being violent toward the officer.

As is apparent from the statute's title, Florida also makes it illegal to resist, oppose, or obstruct an officer without violence or the threat of violence. The statute concerning resisting arrest without violence does not include the words "knowingly and willfully," which is an important distinction. Another difference between these two statutes concerns the penalties upon conviction. Resisting arrest with violence is a felony, while resisting arrest without violence is a misdemeanor.

Florida Resisting Arrest Laws Overview

Below you will find key provisions of Florida's laws relating to resisting arrest.

Statutes
Charges
  • Resisting an officer with violence is a felony of the third degree.
  • Resisting an officer without violence is a misdemeanor of the first degree.
Penalties

Conviction of a felony can result in imprisonment and/or fines:

  • Felony of the Third Degree: A term of imprisonment not exceeding 5 years, and/or up to $5,000 in fines.
  • Misdemeanor of the First Degree: A term of imprisonment not exceeding 1 year, and/or up to $1,000 in fines.

Related Statute

Under § 776.051, an individual is not justified to use force or threaten to use force to resist an arrest by a police officer if the he or she is acting in good faith and is known or reasonably appears to be a police officer. Thus, if the officer was not acting in good faith and he or she was not known/did not appear to be an officer, it may serve as a defense to a charge of resisting arrest.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Florida Resisting Arrest Laws: Related Resources

You can learn more about laws related to this topic by clicking the links below:

Questions About Resisting Arrest in Florida? Ask a Lawyer

If you're facing an arrest, it's important to understand your rights as well as the authority of the police under the law. Even if your arrest is unlawful, you could still face resisting arrest charges in Florida. If so, it would be in your best interest to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in your area to discuss the facts of your case and the way forward.

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