Conviction Under Penal Code Section 69 Does Not Require Proof Force Was Directed Toward or Used On Any Officer
Overview: Penal Code Section 69, in part, makes it a crime to knowingly resist, with force or violence, an officer in the performance of his or her duties. After his conviction under Section 69, the defendant appealed claiming there was no evidence presented that he used force or violence in his attempt to escape. Specifically, he claimed Section 69 requires proof he used force against or on the officer during his attempt to escape arrest. The court rejected this narrow interpretation of Section 69, holding that the defendant used considerable force in attempting to escape from an officer’s lawful restraint, and that such force was sufficient to support a conviction under Section 69.
Training Points: To support a charge, and ultimately a conviction under Section 69, law enforcement officers should prepare detailed reports articulating the manner in which the detainee/arrestee used force or violence to resist arrest and/or threatened the officer. For example, officers should provide specific details including what the suspect did with certain parts of his body (jerk, twist, bend, shove, etc.), what they said during their attempt to resist apprehension/arrest, how they attempted to flee, any injuries the officer suffered as a result of the suspect’s actions, or any verbal/overt threat of any kind. Convictions for a violation of Section 69 can be helpful if a criminal defendant decides to file a civil lawsuit in the future.
Summary Analysis: In People v. Bernal, officers saw Bernal on a bike path in an area closed due to a gang injunction. An officer performed a pat down search and discovered an axe in Bernal’s waistband. Bernal forcefully attempted to escape from the officer. While the officer was holding Bernal’s hand, Bernal pushed the officer and began running, dragging the officer 8-10 yards before they both fell violently to the ground. The officer testified that while he was holding onto Bernal, Bernal swung his hips from one side to the next in an attempt to free himself from the officer’s grasp. The officer sustained bruises and a scraped knee.
In rejecting Bernal’s narrowed definition of Section 69, the court noted a conviction under Section 69 can be accomplished two ways: (1) attempting by threats or violence to deter or prevent an officer from performing a duty imposed by law; or (2) resisting by force or violence an officer in the performance of his or her duty. Neither the statute nor the jury instruction requires more than forceful resistance. The court held a violation of Section 69 does not require any force or violence be directed towards the officer. Rather, force used by a defendant in resisting an officer’s attempt to restrain and arrest the defendant is sufficient to support a conviction. The opinion highlighted the officer’s detailed description of Bernal’s conduct during his attempt to evade arrest.