In Washington State a misdemeanor Resisting Arrest offense can have a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. This is in addition to the punishment of the underlying charge.
How Police and Prosecutors use a charge of Resisting Arrest
Resisting Arrest charges are generally an additional charge which accompanies an "underlying charge." In other words, someone may be charged with shoplifting. When police attempted to make an arrest, the police allege that the defendant was uncooperative. Therefore, the defendant will be charged with two crimes! This tactic is often used by police and prosecutors to bolster their case against you.
A resisting arrest charge can also be used against you to make it appear as if you are guilty of the underlying crime. Police officers may testify that when they attempted to make a lawful arrest, that you attempted to run. This fact may result in a judge and jury assuming you are guilty of the underlying charge and inhibit your ability to get a fair trial.
The definition of "Resisting Arrest"
The state of Washington has given the crime of resisting arrest a wide and not particularly helpful definition. The legal standard is "intentionally prevents." This means that a momentary surprised reaction to being arrested can be categorized by police as "resisting."
Brutality & Resisting Arrest
Often times people charged with resisting arrest are victims of unnecessary brutality by police. A police officer may have twisted the wrist of a defendant or made an arrest in a surprising or startling manner. If you or a loved one were surprised or startled at the time of your arrest, you may have a reasonable explanation for your behavior. Your reaction to being arrested may have been a surprise and not an "intentional" attempt to prevent officers from arresting you.
Below I have listed the Washington state law for resisting arrest:
(1) A person is guilty of resisting arrest if he or she intentionally prevents or attempts to prevent a peace officer from lawfully arresting him or her.
(2) Resisting arrest is a misdemeanor.