Submitting to an Unlawful Arrest

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The DC Court of Appeals – the appellate court for the District of Columbia – issued a ruling recently holding that under that jurisdiction’s Resist, Delay & Obstruct statute, a citizen must submit to an unlawful exercise of police power, and if the person refuses to do so, the police may administer a beating to force the citizen to submit.

Terrance Crossland was convicted of two counts of assaulting a police officer. D.C. Metro police approached Crossland and his cousin last April while Crossland was mowing his grass and smoking a cigarette. Police ordered the two men to put their hands behind their back. When Crossland refused, saying “Fuck this shit. I’m tired of this,” police beat him, taking him to the ground, punching him, and kicking him several times before pepper spraying him.

Police claim that Crossland delivered the first blow – an elbow to the police officer – but no witnesses corroborate the police offcer’s version of events.

Even though it was illegal to stop, detain, or search Crossland, and even though Crossland was in his rights to refuse, the D.C. Court of Appeals upheld the conviction.

As Radley Balko writes:

You only need to believe that two cops patrolling a bad neighborhood—who by all accounts had shown themselves willing to violate the rights of the citizens of that neighborhood—were capable of administering excessive force if one of those citizens happened to mouth off. That isn’t so difficult to imagine.