Back in October, a 14-year-old student at Northfield High School was handcuffed, dragged out of a bathroom, and charged with assault.
Why was Ashanti Mills treated this way? And, why, six months after the incident, was she still facing a resisting arrest charge? Because she wore a headband to school.
The purple bandanna the Denver student wore is supposedly violation of the dress code – though Mills had worn it to school before – and the principal asked her to step outside the classroom.
Mills questioned why she wasn’t allowed to wear the bandanna and asked to go to the bathroom. The principal and a security guard said she could go if they followed her in there. When Mills entered a stall, the security guard then unlocked the door and proceeded to grab the girl’s arm and pin it behind her back.
After a female employee intervened, the situation deescalated. But Ashanti found herself facing charges for both assault and resisting arrest.
Although the assault charge was dropped, the resisting arrest charge stuck around until the DA’s office received an audio file where the arresting officer says Mills didn’t resist. He is heard saying, “She pulled away. She didn’t strike us. We’re not charging her with assault, or resisting arrest or anything like that. But, it was pretty hard to get the handcuffs on her.”
But despite the officer claiming she wasn’t resisting arrest, the girl was still charged with the offense up until recently. Fortunately, all the charges have now been dropped against Mills, the security guard has been fired, and the principal has resigned.
This case, however, brings up a lot of questions about the nature of resisting arrest. According to the officer, Ashanti Mills didn’t resist – but she was still charged. Why? What if you find yourself in a similar situation? What would qualify as resisting? And how can you argue against your charges if you disagree with them?
Let’s take a look.
What Constitutes Resisting Arrest?
Under Colorado law, a person commits resisting arrest if he or she knowingly prevents or attempts to prevent a peace officer, acting under color of his official authority, from effecting an arrest of the actor or another, by:
- Using or threatening to use physical force or violence against the peace officer or another; or
- Using any other means which creates a substantial risk of causing bodily injury to the peace officer or another.
Basically, if you use or threaten to use force or violence while a peace officer is attempting to perform a lawful arrest, you can be charged with resisting arrest.
An important thing to note, though, is that it’s not a defense to say that the peace officer was attempting to make an unlawful arrest. According to the law, if he was acting “under color of his official authority,” he is called on to make a judgment in good faith based on facts and circumstances that an arrest should be made by him. In other words, if an officer decides an arrest is warranted, then it’s a lawful arrest.
The only exception to this is if in attempting to make the arrest, the officer uses unreasonable or excessive force. If this occurs, someone is allowed to rightfully defend themselves.
Resisting arrest is a class 2 misdemeanor punishable by 3 months to 1 year in jail. For this reason, if you are charged with resisting arrest, you should reach out to a Colorado criminal defense attorney so you can try to avoid jail altogether.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.