Can I be charged with resisting arrest without even resisting?

Asked over 2 years ago - Seattle, WA

I was pulled over for allegedly running a stop sign “without coming to a 3-second full stop” as he tells me. I actually did stop. In fact, from the direction he was driving from, you can’t see the stop sign until you’re directly in front of it since the view is blocked by a fence.  What you can see, is when I yielded at the curb before pulling in to the street.  I stopped at the stop sign, then pulled up to the street I was turning onto—yielded to look both ways and then went.  When the cop came to my window, he was hostile to begin with when telling me why he pulled me over.  I so happened to leave my ID at home since I figured I would only be driving 4 blocks and wouldn’t need it.  I did, however, provide the officer with what I did have which were my debit cards reflecting my name, I also gave him the address that I was heading to and even offered to call a relative up the street at that address to come over and verify my identity. 

After running my background check, I was showing my passenger my wallet after he pointed to a photo in there.  When the officer approached my vehicle, he says "Whoa! What are you reaching for?!" I say, "Nothing. I was showing a photo." He responds argumentatively, "Well I just need to ensure my safety.  I don’t know what’s in your car. I need to make sure I’m safe." to which I respond, "For what? I'm not threatening your safety nor do I intend to.  I grew up in this neighborhood and have done good things for my community, so don't treat me like a criminal. I haven't done anything wrong."

My response provokes him to demand I step out of my vehicle. I’m confused as to why, but I comply. He demands that I step toward him but I hesitate in fear of my own safety.  He repeats himself. I take a deep breath and begin to step toward him and he stops me saying, “You know what? I’m arresting you for resisting arrest,” seconds after stepping out of my car.  I did not know that I was under arrest to begin with when he said I was “resisting”.  I initially did not comply with his demand that I step his way because of the forceful tone he’d been using from the minute he came to my window and fear for my own safety of how quickly this situation escalated from him insinuating that I was posing a threat to him to demanding I step out of my car.  His police camera will show that our “altercation” consisted of no struggle from me.  I was standing still the entire 10 seconds or less before beginning to step toward him, right as he chooses to arrest me.    

The officer had no reason to fear for his safety nor did he have grounds for maintaining hostility.  I understand that there’s no law requiring him to be nice, nonetheless, I posed no threat to him. Every question he asked me, I responded directly. I did not argue.  I saw that he ran my background check and it clearly stated that I had nothing on my record other than an unpaid parking ticket. Is this legal?  

Attorney answers (3)

  1. Teresa Lynn Border

    Contributor Level 14

    6

    Lawyers agree

    1

    Answered . You have given a very detailed account of the events leading up to your arrest. The police officer will undoubtedly have a different version of what occurred. Consult with and retain a criminal defense attorney right away to assist you with this case.

  2. Jon Michael Zimmerman

    Contributor Level 14

    3

    Lawyers agree

    1

    Answered . I agree with Attorney Border. You're actually arrested when you're pulled over, it just doesn't always turn into a custodial arrest.

    It's never a good idea to get into an argument with the officer or "one-up" an officer. Even if he wasn't concerned for his safety, your talking about your community involvement was probably not the right approach.

    Nevertheless, you should retain a defense attorney so that you can fight the charge.

    This answer is given merely for informational purposes and does not create an attorney-client relationship. For... more
  3. Brian Yee Keung Cheng

    Contributor Level 7

    3

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Hopefully, as you mention, the patrol car's camera caught the whole thing. Also, you had a passenger who can act as a witness to corroborate your account of the story.

    Nonetheless, you should hire a criminal defense attorney to ensure that your rights are protected as the State determines whether to charge you.

    Disclaimer: Brian Cheng is licensed to practice law only in the State of Washington. Comments are not a substitute... more

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