In most instances, when a law enforcement officer is attempting to place you under arrest, you don't have the legal right to resist. In fact, it's an additional offense in most contexts. But there are limited circumstances where you can take measures to protect yourself and may actually be entitled to use force yourself. Here's when that may be legitimate.
THE USE OF EXCESSIVE FORCE BY A POLICE OFFICER
Under New Jersey law (similar to many other states), if a police officer uses unnecessary and excessive force when making an arrest, and the suspect reasonably believe that the force could result in "great bodily harm," the suspect may use that force necessary to protect himself. In most jurisdictions, the use of excessive force is considered to be assault or battery, thereby giving the victim the right to defend himself.
In a recent decision handed down by the New Jersey Supreme Court, a man sentenced to nine years in prison for resisting arrest was granted a new trial in just such a case. According to testimony, the man was pulled over by police officers on suspicion of drug charges. During the traffic stop, he was repeatedly beaten by police officers, suffering broken ribs and having at least 10 of his dreadlocks forcibly torn from his scalp. Police charged him with a number of drug offenses, as well as resisting arrest. He was acquitted of all charges except that of resisting arrest.
In its decision, the New Jersey Supreme Court reiterated established law that allows an arrestee to respond or counter excessive and unreasonable force for self protection. The court also concluded that any injuries suffered by a police officer using excessive force are not the result of a criminal act, so the defendant could not be charged with a crime for responding to excessive force with physical force.
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