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child abduction

What Is Resisting Arrest? Are There Any Defenses?

What is resisting arrest, and what defenses can potentially be used to defeat the charge? A San Francisco public defender was arrested Wednesday after she refused to let police photograph her client in a court hallway. Notably, a police officer told her before she was placed in handcuffs that she would be arrested for resisting arrest. Eventually, Deputy Public Defender Jami Tillotson was arrested, though a cellphone video shows that, far from "resisting," she let police cuff her and lead her away. So how can she be prosecuted for resisting an arrest that hadn't happened yet? Calif. Penal Code Section 148: It's More Than Just Arrest The statute in question, California Penal Code Section 148, isn't limited just to resisting arrest, even though that's the shorthand name for it. Like similar laws in other states, it prohibits "willfully resist[ing], delay[ing], or obstruct[ing] any public officer, peace officer, or an emergency medical technician ... in the discharge or attempt to discharge any duty of his or her office or employment." Any action a person takes that impedes an officer -- even standing in his way -- could qualify. Resistance isn't limited to just physical contact. It can be verbal, as in a person's refusal to identify himself or herself during booking at the police station. It can also be a passive act, like going limp when being arrested. As one California appellate court observed, "[A] person who goes limp and thereby requires the arresting officer to drag or bodily lift and carry him in order to effect his arrest causes such a delay and obstruction to a lawful arrest" as to violate the statute. Potential Defenses Some potential defenses to resisting arrest include proving that you were not resisting, or that you were acting in self-defense against an officer's unreasonable use of force. Another defense is the claim that the arrest wasn't lawful in the first place. Courts have held that, although people are required to submit to a lawful arrest, an officer making an unlawful arrest isn't discharging a duty of his or her office because police don't have the right to make unlawful arrests. California, however, closed this little loophole -- which has existed since English common law -- by enacting a separate statute making it a crime to resist any arrest, lawful or not. The only exception to the other statute, Penal Code Section 834a, is that a person can use force to protect himself from death or injury from an officer's use of excessive force. Even if a person thinks an arrest was unlawful, that question is ultimately up to a judge to decide, and if the judge decides it was lawful, then the arrestee can be hit with these other violations. Was This Really a Crime? The burning question is whether Tillotson was obstructing an officer's performance of his duty. That part isn't entirely clear and would hinge on whether photographing a person who's not detained or arrested is a "duty" (which the dictionary defines as "obligation").This question will probably never be answered, though, as it's unlikely the San Francisco District Attorney would make such a huge P.R. blunder as charging a public defender for trying to do her job by advising her client. Related Resources: Browse Criminal Defense Lawyers by Location (FindLaw) 2014 in Review: Top 5 Blog Posts About Dealing With Police (FindLaw's Blotter) Resisting Arrest: Dad Reportedly Tells Kids to Bite Officers' Faces Off (FindLaw's Legally Weird) Staged Child Abduction Triggers Investigation, Outrage (FindLaw's Blotter)
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How Do Cell Phone AMBER Alerts Work?

Cell phone AMBER alerts are becoming more common, but they're still catching many mobile users off guard. How exactly do they work? Sending AMBER alerts to cell phones in a particular area is relatively new, but the system has been in place for more than a year now. Just this week, smartphone users in parts of Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma received such an alert, many for the first time, Wichita's KAKE-TV reports. Here is a brief overview of the laws and programs which undergird cell phone AMBER alerts: Wireless Emergency Alerts The AMBER alert system is regulated by the federal government -- specifically the Department of Justice -- to disseminate information about abducted children. These alerts appear on electronic highway signs, in radio and television announcements, and as many cell phone users are now aware, on mobile phones as well. Sending AMBER Alerts to mobile phones is made possible by the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) program. This program allows public warnings to be sent to WEA-enabled phones across the country and is also utilized by agencies like FEMA to warn of dangerous weather or national emergencies. According to the DOJ, beginning in January 2013, all AMBER alerts are sent automatically through the WEA system to WEA-ready mobile phones. However, this service does not cover all wireless users. According to the Federal Communications Commission, participation in the WEA program is voluntary for wireless carriers, and it is possible that your carrier or even your cell phone may not support receiving WEAs -- including AMBER alerts. Those who are able to receive these alerts can receive government-approved alerts sent directly to their mobile devices. Cell phone AMBER alerts appear just like text messages, but they do not impact a mobile user's text message plan and are entirely free. Can You Turn AMBER Alerts Off? AMBER alerts and some weather-related alerts may be turned off on many cell phones. Each phone may be slightly different in its settings, but only a few taps are necessary to disable AMBER alerts on iPhones and Android devices. Although AMBER alerts can be disabled, not all WEAs can. Under the WARN Act passed in 2006, the FCC does not allow mobile users to disable messages issued by the President of the United States. While these messages may be jarring or unexpected, take a moment to consider leaving them on. Californians received their first real test of the cell phone AMBER alert in August, and it eventually led to an abducted 16-year-old girl's rescue. These AMBER alerts may be annoying, but for a culture that perpetually endures online ads and spam on our cell phones, it's a small irritation for a powerful tool. Related Resources: Amber Alert message caught many off guard (Wichita, Kansas' KSN-TV) AMBER Alerts Now Showing Up on Google Maps (FindLaw's Blotter) Kidnapper Thwarted by Amber Alert, Driver (FindLaw's Blotter) AMBER Alerts (FindLaw)
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