Eluding Police or Resisting Arrest in New Jersey: One Statute with Several Meanings
July 1, 2021
What if you were walking on the street, driving home, or out for a night on the town and an officer tried to pull you over or arrest you. Your choices may seem limited, though the urge to flee might cross your mind and make your body tense up in anticipation. If you are arrested in New Jersey, you ought to think twice before interfering with a police officer’s arrest, whether your own or someone else’s. Resisting arrest can get you thrown in jail for up to six months. And if you drove away to escape an arrest, you might spend even longer in jail.
Resisting arrest is not always a fistfight or a freeway car chase you see in the media. Merely making an arrest more difficult can qualify. So, if the police announce that you are under arrest and handcuff you, but you let your legs go slack and fall to the ground or stiffen your body when the officers try to put you in the police car, that may be perceived as resisting. Then there is eluding, which is a special kind of resisting, done by flight in a motor vehicle. Here we tackle one law, N.J.S.A. 2C:29, with multiple meanings.
How bad is a resisting arrest charge and what are you facing in NJ? That depends.
For a first-time charge of resisting arrest, you could be sentenced to 6 months in jail for a disorderly persons offense or 18 months in prison for a fourth degree crime. If you are charged with a disorderly persons offense, the municipal court judge will hear your case and determine your sentence. A fourth degree resisting arrest charge, however, is an indictable offense heard in the Superior Court. There, a jury determines guilt or innocence, and the judge doles out the sentence if the case ends up in trial.
Whether you will spend time in municipal or superior court depends on the circumstances. If your struggle led to a police officer’s injury, say the officer’s shoulder was yanked and dislocated after attempting to hold you up when you let yourself drop to the floor, you may be charged with third degree resisting arrest. The same charge applies if you slammed your body into the officer, causing them to fall to resist being arrested. When resisting with violence or in such a way as to cause injury to another, you will face in prison for anywhere from 3 to up to 5 years, though there is a presumption of non-incarceration for third degree resisting arrest.
Eluding a police officer can make things worse
If you drive away from an arrest scene, you could be charged with an eluding offense. For example, the police stop you for a broken taillight and then see a small bag of cocaine on the floor beneath the back seat. Knowing you don’t buy or take drugs, that the drugs are not yours, you take off instead of getting out of the car as asked. Eluding police is also a third degree crime that carries up to 5 years in prison, unless you injure someone while eluding. Then, you face second degree eluding charges, a sentence that could land you in prison for a maximum of 10 years. Plus, incarceration is presumed for second degree crimes.
What if the police wrongly arrested you?
If you resisted arrest because you were not guilty of the offense the police claim you committed, you could prove your innocence of the crime you are accused of and still be charged with resisting arrest. So, it is not worth trying to avoid the arrest by giving police false information, running, or hiding. Since you could go to prison, it is not a good idea to resist arrest, even if you are innocent of what the police say you did. However, in cases of police brutality or excessive force, your lawyer can fight to prove that the police behaved badly enough to force you to defend yourself for your life.
You may not necessarily go to prison for resisting arrest or eluding
A defendant charged with a fourth or third degree crime may not be sentenced to prison time for first-time offenses. After all, the presumption is for non-incarceration. However, that is not guaranteed. A judge can still sentence you to prison if the circumstances of the crime warrant it, for example, the danger posed to officers and innocent bystanders when you sped off to elude the police. That disregard for others may persuade a judge to sentence you to prison, making it important for your attorney to show that the behavior does not warrant prison. Likewise, a first-time offender can often take advantage of the Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) program meant for those who got in trouble with the law for the first time. With the idea that everyone makes mistakes, PTI is designed to provide a second chance and a clean slate to those with no prior criminal history. So, a person who panicked and eluded arrest but did not intend to injure anyone may be eligible for PTI and a supervised probationary period instead of prison, after which the charges are dismissed.
But PTI is not for everyone. An applicant to the program must show they are a good candidate, someone who will stick with the program for the one to three-years to complete the program for their charges to be dismissed. Even after the program is completed, however, a defendant may still have to expunge their arrest record. With the know-how of an attorney, you may get a conviction for resisting arrest expunged from your record, so those who search your background never see it. Before that, hire an attorney to defend you against any violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:29, for much-needed guidance from arrest, to court, to possibly, dismissal.
Looking for a Lawyer to Handle Resisting or Eluding Case in Elizabeth and Union County, NJ
Our experienced criminal defense attorneys have handled many cases of people resisting arrest, both intentionally and unintentionally. Sometimes, people react in fear, surprise, or instinct to back away from trouble or impending capture. Involuntary reactions are understandable. The lines can be blurred when it comes to eluding and resisting charges, between reaction and intention. What you need is a legal professional who can dispel the notion that there is a solid basis for the prosecutor’s case.
You are wise to seek counsel if you have been arrested and charged with resisting arrest or eluding the police. Besides possible prison time, you could pay high fines or restitution, after which you are left to deal with the repercussions of a criminal charge on your record. You want your version of the facts to reach the prosecutor, the judge, and the jury if your case is going to trial. Our team of criminal defense lawyers can voice your side of the story, support your defense by challenging the evidence, and work tirelessly for the best possible results. Contact us at (908) 838-0150 today to go over your resisting or eluding case and options in a free consultation.