Virginia Law: Resisting Arrest

Resisting Arrest, a misdemeanor under VA Law 18.2-479.1, is defined as fleeing from an officer while he is attempting to make a lawful, proper arrest of the individual charged with Resisting Arrest.

Resisting Arrest is a Class 1 misdemeanor crime in Virginia, which is punishable by up to a year in jail, and up to a $2,500 fine.


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This article is written by Virginia criminal defense attorney Marina Medvin, an award-winning Northern Virginia lawyer serving Alexandria, Fairfax and Arlington, VA. Please call for a criminal defense attorney consultation request.



Defenses to Charge of Resisting Arrest

  • Only the individual who is placed under arrest can be charged with Resisting Arrest. A bystander interfering with an arrest is obstructing justice, but not resisting arrest.
  • If the arrest was not based on probable cause or the officer has no authority to make the arrest, then resisting the arrest cannot be a crime and the accused should not be found guilty. This is a complicated legal issue that will be determined by the judge when your lawyer raises the proper motions in court.

Resisting Arrest Explained

Resisting Arrest in VA Code § 18.2-479.1 is identified by the phrase “intentionally preventing or attempting to prevent a lawful arrest.” The required action for a guilty conviction is fleeing from a law-enforcement officer when two conditions are met:

  1. the officer applies physical force to the person, or
  2. the officer communicates to the person that he is under arrest and
    (a) the officer has the legal authority and the immediate physical ability to place the person under arrest, and
    (b) a reasonable person who receives such communication knows or should know that he is not free to leave.

In 2015, the Virginia Court of Appeals in Joseph v. Commonwealth, defined the conduct that can result in proper charges under this code section: “‘fleeing’ from an officer for purposes of Code § 18.2-479.1 requires some form of ‘running away’ or movement away from the officer’s immediate span of control, beyond the resistance that occurred in this case where the appellant ‘remained continuously in. . . close proximity’ at all times.”


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