Resisting Arrest in Michigan
I have had a couple of cases recently where my clients were charged with Resisting and Obstruction a Police Officer, R&O. In both cases, my clients were young and when taken into custody resisted the officer. Both were charged with R&O, a two-year felony. In both cases there was a problem for the State. Neither of these two were detained legally. While the police might have had “reasonable suspicion” to briefly detain these guys and ask some questions, there was no probable cause or warrant to seize them. And in Michigan, you are allowed to resist.
The Michigan Supreme Court has determined that under common law, you can resist an illegal arrest. While the Legislature passed laws that make resisting a police officer doing his job illegal, if anyone seizes you and they have no right to seize you, you can resist. Most other states don’t allow you to defy the police and require you fight an illegal arrest in court. Michigan lets you fight right there and then if your freedom is at stake. On one hand, we want people to obey the police. On the other hand, if the police were to run amok, should citizens be able to resist?
In the case of my first client, he broke the officer’s nose and did about $3000 worth of damage to the police cruiser. But before you say that my client should pay for what he did to the officer and the vehicle, the Police did not follow the law and arrested a person who had done nothing wrong. They put his arms behind his back and placed him in handcuffs. The officers walked him out of the store in front of other people. They put him alone and handcuffed in the rear seat of a police car in front of the store. He was scared, frustrated, confused, and angry. He wanted his freedom and lashed out at the officer. He kicked at the door and when the officer looked in to threaten him from further damaging the car, he kicked him. His reaction was proportional and normal when your freedom is denied. In this case, the Circuit Court Judge, followed the law and dismissed all the charges against my client.
In the second case, the police picked my client out of a crowd because they were looking for someone who was wearing white sneakers. The did not get a warrant, and before asking a single question, handcuffed my client and threw him in the back of a police cruiser. They shouldn’t have been surprised when my client angrily reacted. Think about it. You are handcuffed with your hands behind you, the back seat is separated from the front by a plexiglass partition, and you have done nothing wrong other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He spit at the officer. He was charged with R&O and again, the charge was dismissed. While no one can condone spitting on someone, my client was handcuffed, had no weapons other than his mouth, and he used what he could to resist an illegal arrest.
In both these cases, my clients probably should have kept quiet, let them go through the process of turning you into a “criminal” and then, get a good civil lawyer and SUE THE HELL OUT OF THEM.
On the other hand, if you can’t wait, and want to take the first punch, then make sure that the arrest was illegal, that you have no outstanding warrants to justify any arrest, and that you have an experienced lawyer who knows the law.