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Some law enforcement organizations support legislation to change state’s resisting arrest law

Posted at 12:12 AM, Feb 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-02 00:13:59-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Several law enforcement organizations are supporting legislation that would make it easier to charge someone with resisting arrest in Virginia.

Courts of Justice committees in both the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate are currently reviewing the legislation, although lawmakers are struggling with new wording for the state’s resisting arrest law.

Under current law, police can only charge someone with resisting arrest if they’re “running from” or “fleeing” police.

A number of law enforcement groups, including the Fraternal Order of Police, would like to add language to the statute allowing officers to charge someone who fails to allow them-selves to be physically taken into custody.

The proposal comes after the State Court of Appeals threw out a Chesapeake man’s conviction last year.

Isiah David Joseph was charged with resisting arrest after he repeatedly swung his hands to prevent an officer from taking him into custody. The court ruled that Joseph couldn’t be charged with resisting arrest because he never ran from the arresting officer.  The court ruled Joseph should have been charged with Obstruction of Justice instead.

Kevin Carroll, President of the Fraternal Order of Police, said changing the definition of the resisting arrest statute would make the law easier for the average person to understand and would fill current gaps in both the obstructing justice statute and resisting arrest law.

“We’re just trying to make it simpler for citizens who have to know whether or not they’re resisting arrest, what that actually means,” Carroll said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia sees the legislation as a threat to a person’s constitutional rights.  Attorney Rob Poggenklass said the new law could criminalize passive behavior.

“Who knows what passively resists means,” said Poggenklass. “You can imagine someone engaging in civil disobedience and just doesn’t lift their arms. Under this bill, that would be a crime in Virginia.”

The ACLU is also concerned because under current Virginia law, people charged with resisting arrest are subject to having their DNA taken for analysis.

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