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Resisting Arrest In Light of the United Airlines Chicago Passenger Removal From Flight

May 01, 2017 by Mike McKneely in Criminal Defense

In the aftermath of the United Airlines incident in which a Chicago passenger was forcibly and violently removed from a flight bound for Louisville, many questions have been raised in the legal community and elsewhere regarding resisting arrest.

Dr. David Dao, 69, was removed with force from United Express Flight 3411. The flight was sold out and filled to capacity. Flight attendants informed passengers that the airline needed to displace paying passengers to accommodate employees who needed to be flown to Louisville to support another flight.

Four individuals were then selected to relinquish their seats based on the fares they had paid, and they would be given an airline voucher for future travel. Dr. Dao was one of the individuals chosen, but he refused the offer and refused to depart the flight when asked. He was subsequently dragged off the flight by security personnel, and in the process reportedly suffered significant injuries.

Attorney Michael McKneely has over a decade’s worth of criminal law experience, serving both as a prosecutor and defense lawyer. He understands the legal complexities that can surround a charge such as resisting arrest or delaying a peace officer. If you are currently facing this charge, contact Fresno criminal defense attorney Michael McKneely today and let him work to form a sound and vigorous defense on your behalf.

Contact Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer today at (559) 443-7442 to set up a free consultation, or contact us online to tell us about your situation.

Defining “Resisting Arrest” Under California Law

California Penal Code section 148(a) makes it illegal to resist, obstruct, or delay a peace officer or emergency medical technician (EMT) during the performance or attempted performance of their duties.

Under this statute, the duties mentioned above may go beyond simply the act of arresting someone. They can also include the monitoring of a criminal suspect in custody, interviewing individuals for the purposes of investigating a crime, and traveling to the scene of an accident or crime.

Elements of the Crime

Prosecutors must prove three specific elements of the crime of resisting arrest to find you guilty of this offense. These elements are:

  1. A public officer, peace officer or EMT was performing or attempting to perform their duties lawfully.
  2. You willfully resisted, delayed, or obstructed the performance or attempted performance of those duties, and
  3. You knew or within reason should have known that the person engaged in those duties was a public/peace officer, or EMT.


The charge of resisting arrest in California is a misdemeanor. The penalties are up to one year in a county jail and as much as a $1,000 fine.

Complying with an Officer’s Commands

Police officers, just like any other individual are not immune to making mistakes or even engaging in misconduct. Having said this, under California law, individuals have a duty to obey the lawful orders given to them by public and peace officers.

In many instances, it is the client’s word against the police officer’s word when charged with a 148(a) offense. Considering the law and this fact, it is generally wise to comply with an officer’s orders, unless it involves a serious matter of conscience or injustice for which you are willing to go to jail, or if you believe we can prove the officer’s actions were unlawful.

Video evidence can be very valuable in these cases if there is any question about the validity of the arrest or the behavior of the officer performing the arrest.

Clear Examples of Resisting Arrest

There are several scenarios that may constitute resisting, obstructing, or delaying the police. In many cases, officers will use their discretion and opinion of the situation to decide whether or not to make an arrest on this charge.

Courts in the state of California have concluded the following activities and behaviors to constitute what is referred to in general as “resisting arrest”:

  • Running from, physically resisting or hiding from police officers with the knowledge that they are intending to detain you
  • Attempting to deter or intimidate a witness from speaking to the police about a possible crime
  • Talking to an individual in the back of a police car who has been arrested after repeated orders by the police for you to move away from the individual
  • Giving the police a false name after an arrest (technically a violation of Penal Code section 148.9)

Legal Defenses

Although the crime of resisting arrest may seem minor, a conviction is not something you want to have on your record. Many cases involving this charge can be defended successfully after a thorough investigation of the incident has been conducted by a skilled defense attorney.

Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to make one or more of the following assertions that could help your case:

  • You were acting in self-defense in a lawful manner
  • You were wrongfully arrested, or
  • The police were not acting lawfully

Contact a Skilled Fresno Criminal Defense Lawyer

Regardless of the charge against you, it’s important that you have a legal advocate on your side who treats you with dignity and respect, and fights hard to ensure your rights are protected.

Fresno criminal defense attorney Michael McKneely does just that for his clients. As a former prosecutor and now an experienced criminal defense attorney, he understands what it takes to negotiate effectively with the prosecution and formulate a powerful defense on your behalf and to win in front of a jury at trial if necessary.

If you need legal help today concerning a criminal charge, call Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer at (559) 443-7442 to find out how we can help you.

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