California’s Resisting an Executive Officer/Trying to Prevent an Executive Officer from Performing Duty Law Penal Code Section 69

Resisting an executive officer and/or trying to prevent an executive officer from performing duty in California is a “wobbler” and taken very seriously. A “wobbler” offense means the crime can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. Therefore, it is highly recommended you retain an experienced and highly qualified criminal defense attorney who can fight on your behalf.

Definition of Resisting an Executive Officer/Trying to Prevent an Executive Officer from Performing Duty

PC 69 defines resisting an executive officer as anyone who attempts, by means of threat or violence, to deter or prevent an executive officer from performing any duty imposed upon the officer by law. It includes any person who knowingly resists, by use of force or violence, the officer, in the performance of his or her duty.

What does it mean to violate PC 69 (Resisting an Executive Officer)?

An individual is guilty of violating this law if they:

  1. Unlawfully used force or violence to resist an executive officer;
  2. Acted while officer was performing his or her lawful duty; and
  3. Acted while knowing officer was performing his or her duty.

An executive officer is a government official who may use his/her own discretion in performing his/her job duties.

Lawful duty means the executive officer must be acting lawfully. An executive officer is not acting lawfully when he or she unlawfully arrests or detains someone or uses unreasonable or excessive force in his or her duties.

What does it mean to violate PC 69 (Trying to Prevent an Executive Officer from Performing Duty)?

An individual is guilty of violating this law if they:

  1. Willfully and unlawfully used violence or a threat of violence to try to prevent or deter an executive officer from performing the officer’s lawful duty; and
  2. When that individual acted, he or she intended to prevent or deter the executive officer from performing the officer’s lawful duty.

Willfully means when the person acts willingly or on purpose.

The threat may be oral or written and surrounding circumstances may be used to determine whether the threat occurred (ex. Pattern of conduct or a combination of statements and conduct). Moreover, there is no requirement that the individual have an immediate ability to carry out the threat. The law only requires that the threat would have a reasonable tendency to cause fear in the victim that the threat will be carried out. Notably, the executive officer does not need to be in the middle of performing his/her duties when the threat is communicated.

Examples of PC 69:

  • During a lawful arrest, the arrestee violently shoves the officer, who is in full uniform and identified as an officer.
  • An individual goes up to an officer, who is in full uniform and on his lunch break at a coffee shop, and says, “Watch what happens if you continue your investigation,” while making a throat slitting gesture with his finger.
  • Individual sees officer, in full uniform, is pursuing a bank robbery suspect on foot and to prevent the arrest, the individual sticks his foot out and trips the officer.

Note: in the examples above, unless the violence or threat of violence is very clear, the surrounding circumstances are extremely important in the determination of a violation of PC 69.

What’s NOT a violation of PC 69?

An individual is NOT guilty of violating PC 69 when he/she photographs or records an executive officer when that officer is in a public place or if the recording individual is in a place where he/she has the right to be. In short, recording or photographing an executive officer by itself is not a violation of PC 69.

Similar/Related Offenses

California’s Penal Code Section 243 Battery on a Peace Officer

This law makes it illegal to commit battery against the person of a peace officer, custodial officer, firefighter, emergency medical technician, lifeguard, security officer, custody assistant, process server, traffic officer, code enforcement officer, animal control officer, or search and rescue member, who is engaged in the performance of his/her duties—includes off-duty, too.

California’s Vehicle Code Section 2800.1 and 2800.2 Evading a Peace Officer

This law makes it illegal for any person, while operating a motor vehicle and with the intent to evade, willfully flee or attempt to elude a peace officer’s vehicle pursuit.

For more information, please see our article on evading arrest a peace officer.

California’s Penal Code Section 422 Criminal Threats

This law makes it illegal for any person to willfully threaten to commit a crime, which will result in death or great bodily injury, to another person. The threatening individual must specifically intend that the statement (oral, written, or electronic) be taken as a threat.

There is no requirement that the threatening person intend to carry out the threat. However, the threat must be so clear, immediate, unconditional, and specific that the victim was placed in sustained fear. Moreover, that fear must be reasonable under the circumstances.

For more information, please see our article on criminal threats

California Penal Code Section 518 Extortion

This law makes it illegal to wrongfully use force or fear to obtain property, act, or other consideration (anything of value) from a public officer.

The Prosecution

For the prosecution to prove the defendant committed the act of resisting an executive officer in performance of duty or trying to prevent an executive officer from performing duty under PC 69, they must first prove the elements of the crime took place. The government must prove the following elements:

Resisting an Executive Officer in Performance of Duty

  1. The defendant unlawfully used force or violence to resist an executive officer;
  2. When the defendant acted, the officer was performing his/her lawful duty; and
  3. When the defendant acted, he/she knew the executive officer was performing his/her duty.

Trying to Prevent an Executive Officer from Performing Duty

  1. Defendant willfully and unlawfully used violence or a threat of violence to try to prevent or deter an executive officer from performing the officer’s lawful duty; and
  2. When the defendant acted, he/she intended to prevent/deter the executive officer from performing the officer’s lawful duty.

Who Can Be Charged?

The following examples illustrate who can be charged with violating PC 69.

Example of Resisting an Executive Officer in Performance of Duty

Dan, a wanted felon, was hiding out in a cabin in the forest. Requiring supplies, Dan traveled to a nearby gas station. Officer Paul, who was in full uniform and in a marked police vehicle, was filling his gas tank at the gas station. While filling gas, Officer Paul saw Dan, who he recognized as a wanted felon, walk into the gas station. Officer Paul followed Dan into the store, identified himself as an officer with his badge, and informed Paul he was under arrest. Dan freaked out and tried to run out of the store and away from Officer Paul. Officer Paul began to chase Dan and as he got dangerously close to Dan, Dan punched Officer Paul in the face. Officer Paul fell to the ground and sustained a large black eye. Officer Paul’s backup eventually arrived and took custody of Dan.

Example of Trying to Prevent an Executive Officer from Performing Duty

Same scenario as above, except Dan was accompanied to the gas station his girlfriend, Gina. Gina, who is outside the gas station, sees and hears Officer Paul attempt to place Dan under arrest. Not wanting Dan to get caught, Gina grabs Dan’s shotgun from out of Dan’s truck. Gina aims the shotgun at Officer Paul and screams, “Get away from my boyfriend or I’ll shoot!” Officer Paul, afraid Gina would shoot, backs off. Dan and Gina escape but are apprehended by officers later.

Legal Defenses

Facing charges for violating California’s PC 69, resisting an executive officer in performance of duty/trying to prevent an executive officer from performing duty, can be difficult to fight alone. An effective and aggressive criminal defense attorney will know the most common legal defenses to fight against these charges.

Was the officer acting unlawfully?

It is important to understand that the executive officer must be acting lawfully in the performance of his duties. As stated above, an executive officer is not acting lawfully when he or she unlawfully arrests or detains someone or uses unreasonable or excessive force in his or her duties.

Example:

Officer Paul sees his ex-girlfriend, Gina, at a gas station with her new boyfriend, Dan. Seething with jealousy, Officer Paul decides to show Dan who’s boss. Officer Paul walks up to Dan and tries to scare him by placing him “under arrest.” Officer Paul forcefully grabs Dan’s arm and Dan freaks out and elbows Officer Paul in the face.

In the above example, Dan would not be in violation of PC 69 because Officer Paul acted unlawfully by faking an arrest and forcefully taking hold of Dan’s arm.

Self-defense?

If an officer is using excessive force, an individual is still entitled to exercise self-defense if it falls under California’s self-defense laws. Under these laws, an individual’s conduct in self-defense will be protected if that individual’s conduct was reasonable under the circumstances.

Stan, a mischievous high schooler, decided to help himself to a six-pack of beer at a J-Mart. Officer Pat sees Stan swipe the beer and walk out of the store. Officer Pat approaches Stan and tells Stan he is under arrest. Stan, knowing that the jig is up, complies and turns around so Officer Pat can place handcuffs on him. Officer Pat, who is having a really bad day, throws Stan to the ground and shoves his knee into Stan’s back. Stan, fearing his life is in danger and in pain, forcefully shoves Officer Pat off him and into a wall.

In the above example, Stan would not be in violation of PC 69 because Officer Pat, while the arrest was lawful, unlawfully used excessive force in the arrest of Stan. Stan was compliant in the arrest and there was no reason for Officer Pat to throw Stan into the ground and shove his knee into his back. Stan feared for his life and it was reasonable under the circumstances for him to shove Officer Pat off him.

Is this a case of police misconduct?

Sometimes, a PC 69 charge can come from an angry, vengeful, unethical, or even insecure officers. If an individual believes he or she is being falsely accused of violating PC 69, an experienced criminal defense attorney can file a Pitchess motion. A Pitchess motion asks for information in the arresting officer’s personnel file. If that file contains a history or trend of police misconduct, it could lead to a dismissal or reduction of charges.

Penalties for PC 69

Again, a PC 69 is considered a “wobbler” and can result in either felony or misdemeanor penalties. A prosecutor may base this charging decision on the circumstances of the offense and the individual’s criminal history.

Penalties for violating PC 69 as a felony are as follows:

  • Fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000);
  • Imprisonment in county jail for sixteen months, or two or three years; or
  • Fine and imprisonment.

Penalties for violating PC 69 as a misdemeanor are as follows:

  • Fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000);
  • Imprisonment in county jail not exceeding one year; or
  • Fine and imprisonment.

Penalties for Similar/Related Offenses

California’s Penal Code Section 243 Battery on a Peace Officer

Battery on a peace officer is a wobbler and can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. The charge depends on whether there was an injury or serious bodily injury.

It is important to note that the slightest touching is enough for a battery if it is done in a rude or angry manner. The touching does not have to cause pain or injury of any kind. This typically is charged as a misdemeanor.

Injury is any physical injury, which requires professional medical treatment.

Serious bodily injury is a serious impairment of physical condition such as, but not limited to: loss of consciousness, concussion, bone fracture, loss or impairment of function of any bodily member or organ, wound requiring extensive suturing, and/or serious disfigurement.

Injury and serious bodily injury cases can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor.

For an injury:

If charged as a felony, the punishment is:

  • Imprisonment in county jail for sixteen months, or two or three years;
  • Fine not exceeding two thousand dollars ($2000); or
  • Imprisonment and a fine.

If charged as a misdemeanor, the punishment is:

  • Imprisonment in county jail not exceeding one year;
  • Fine not exceeding two thousand dollars ($2000); or
  • Imprisonment and fine.

For serious bodily injury:

If charged as a felony, the punishment is:

  • Imprisonment in county jail for two, three, or four years.

If charged as a misdemeanor, the punishment is:

  • Imprisonment in county jail not exceeding one year.

California’s Vehicle Code Section 2800.1 and 2800.2 Evading Arrest

A violation of VC 2800.1 is a misdemeanor and punishable by imprisonment in county jail for not more than one year.

A violation of VC 2800.2 is punishable as a felony or a misdemeanor. The punishment is as follows:

  • Imprisonment in state prison or county jail for not less than six months and not more than one year;
  • Fine not less than one thousand dollars ($1000) and not more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000); or
  • Fine and imprisonment.

For more information, please see our article on VC 2800.1 and VC 2800.2.

California’s Penal Code Section 422 Criminal Threats

A violation of PC 422 is punishable as a felony or a misdemeanor. The punishment is as follows:

  • Imprisonment in county jail not to exceed one year; or
  • Imprisonment in state prison up to three years.

For more information, please see our article on PC 422.

California Penal Code Section 518 Extortion

Extortion is punishable as a felony and the penalties are as follows:

  • Imprisonment in county jail for two, three, or four years;
  • Fine up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000); and/or
  • Formal probation.

We Can Help

If you or someone you know is facing charges of violating California’s Penal Code section 69, resisting an executive officer in performance of duty/trying to prevent an executive officer from performing duty, it is highly recommended that you seek an experienced, knowledgeable, and reputable criminal defense lawyer. If you are located in the greater San Diego area, Orange County or Los Angeles, contact the Law Offices of Anna R. Yum. As a former prosecutor, Attorney Yum can spot the legal issues and attack the weaknesses in the government’s case in order to strive in achieving the best possible outcome. Don’t hesitate to contact a lawyer who will aggressively fight for your rights and your future. Call 619-233-4433 for a free consultation or consult with our online agents today.

Practice Areas