Attorney At Law Steven A. Garner
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Excessive force or resisting arrest? Your word against a cop's

Few things can ruin an otherwise perfectly pleasant day like seeing a police officer's patrol car lights flashing in your rear-view mirror. Especially if you've had a traffic ticket in the recent past, the last thing you want is more points added to your driving record. It's one thing for a police officer to make a traffic stop. It's quite another for him or her to deviate from the strict protocol that governs such situations, which may lead to violations of your personal rights.  

If the police officer that pulls you over thinks you have been driving while intoxicated, he or she may assertively try to get you to admit that. The Fifth Amendment protects you by allowing you to invoke your right to remain silent. There are certain things a traffic officer can do to determine probable cause for an arrest, such as ask you to exit your vehicle to take a field sobriety test. However, the officer may not use unnecessary and excessive force against you at any time.  

When a traffic stop goes awry 

What if your situation escalates and you wind up in handcuffs, and what if, while locking the handcuffs around your wrist, you pull away a bit because the officer is rough-handling you, perhaps even pushing you to the ground? This type of incident may result in you facing charges for resisting arrest. Knowing how to protect your rights and where to turn for support could be crucial toward avoiding conviction. 

Here's what the law says regarding resisting arrest 

In New Jersey and all other states, there are laws against impeding a police officer's ability to carry out a lawful arrest. If you try to move away when an officer is placing handcuffs on you, that in itself may be grounds for additional charges beyond suspected DUI or whatever the officer is arresting you for. If you try to get back in your car, run or drive away from the scene, a conviction could land you behind bars for more than a year.  

Police misconduct is a serious matter 

Just as you may not attempt to prevent a patrol officer from affecting an arrest, the police officer in question must follow set procedures when conducting the arrest. Using excessive force against you may constitute police misconduct; if you were merely trying to protect yourself when you pulled away or raised your hands in front of you, you may be able to claim self-defense if you face resisting arrest charges at some point. 

K-9 units are protected under the law 

You may also not attempt to harm a police dog. If an officer pulling you over commands a K-9 unit or calls one to the scene to search your vehicle, it can be quite disconcerting to have the animal approach you; however, harming a law enforcement animal is a criminal offense. 

Convincing the court 

Many such incidents (where police accuse defendants of resisting arrest and defendants accuse police of misconduct) come down to the word of the civilian against the word of the officer. You may stand a better chance of presenting a strong defense if you let someone well-versed in criminal justice do your talking for you in court.

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