Michigan Court Rules on Legality of Resisting Arrest Conviction Based on Officer’s Violation of Defendant’s Constitutional Rights

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Michigan resisting arrest case in which the defendant claimed his conviction could not stand because he was lawfully resisting a police officer’s illegal seizure. Ultimately, the court agreed with the defendant, and reversed his conviction.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, police officers received a phone call reporting a man with a gun in a trailer park. Upon the officers’ arrival, the trailer park manager explained several people were in one of the trailers who did not live in the park. One of the men, the manager explained, appeared to be drunk and was waving a handgun around.

Police officers went to the trailer and knocked on the door. A woman answered. Officers told her to have everyone exit the trailer. The defendant exited, and an officer immediately grabbed him, telling him to “come this way.” The defendant complied, but was visibly intoxicated. The officers began asking the defendant questions, which eventually centered around whether he had a gun. The defendant explained he was licensed to carry a gun, and his gun was in his car. He denied brandishing the weapon. The officers asked three times where specifically the gun was; each time, the defendant inquired if they had a warrant. The third time the defendant asked whether the officers had a warrant, one of the officers grabbed the defendant and pushed him up against the car. The defendant resisted, leading to a resisting arrest charge.

The Defendant’s Argument

At trial, the defendant argued that he could not be convicted of resisting arrest because the officer’s conduct leading to the incident violated the defendant’s right to be free from illegal searches and seizures. The trial court rejected the defendant’s argument, and the defendant entered a no contest plea. He then appealed.

On appeal, the defendant renewed his argument. This time the appellate court agreed. The court explained that, upon their arrival, police did not have probable cause to arrest the defendant because there was no individualized suspicion that he was involved in any crime. Thus, by knocking on the door and demanding the woman have all occupants of the trailer exit, the officers “constructively entered the trailer without a warrant.”

The court also noted that, even if there was reason to believe the defendant had brandished the gun, that was not a legal basis for his arrest. Under MCL 764.15(1)(a), an officer can only make a warrantless arrest if they suspect a person committed a crime punishable by more than 92 days in jail. In Michigan, the crime of brandishing a gun in public is only punishable by up to 90 days in jail. Thus, the court reversed the defendant’s conviction.

Have You Been Arrested After a Questionable Police Interaction?

If you have recently been arrested and charged with a crime after a questionable police stop, reach out to the dedicated criminal defense attorneys at Michigan Defense Law. At our firm, we represent clients facing all types of serious crimes, including Michigan resisting arrest offenses, gun crimes, allegations of domestic violence, and more. To schedule a free consultation with an attorney to discuss your case, call 248-451-2200 today.

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