Correction to The Criminal Law Handbook (14th ed.) on Resisting Arrest

The 14th Edition of The Criminal Law Handbook: Know Your Rights, Survive the System states the following on page 88:

“People under arrest cannot use force to resist, even if the arrest is improper. Most courts have ruled that, unless an officer is physically abusing them, arrestees have no right to use force to resist an arrest, even if the arresting police officer clearly lacks probable cause. An improperly arrested person who resists arrest may be charged with resisting arrest or battery on a police officer. To protect arrestees and police officers alike, judges and legislators want issues of probable cause to be fought out in court after the fact, not on the streets.”

It’s true that players in the criminal justice system don’t want arrestees resisting police officers and do want issues like probable cause litigated in court. It’s also true that in some states you can’t use force to resist an appropriately forceful arrest, regardless of whether there’s a proper basis for it. But we wanted to note that, in some states, someone being unlawfully arrested has a right to use reasonable force to resist.

For much more on this topic, including the risks of resisting, see Resisting Unlawful Arrest.