In Which Observing a Traffic Stop = Resisting Arrest

Friday, August 27th, 2010

Salisbury, North Carolina:

The resisting-arrest conviction last week of Felicia Gibson has left a lot of people wondering. Can a person be charged with resisting arrest while observing a traffic stop from his or her own front porch?

Salisbury Police Officer Mark Hunter thought so, and last week District Court Judge Beth Dixon agreed. Because Gibson did not at first comply when the officer told her and others to go inside, the judge found Gibson guilty of resisting, delaying or obstructing an officer.

Gibson wasn’t the only one watching the stop, and wasn’t the only one who refused to go inside. So why was she arrested and not the others? This might have had something to do with it:

She was the only one holding up a cell-phone video camera.

You have to wonder if Officer Hunter is fit for police work if he’s so easily distracted that merely observing him from a distance qualifies as obstructing him from performing his duties.

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58 Responses to “In Which Observing a Traffic Stop = Resisting Arrest”

  1. #1 |  craig | 

    All I can say is thank god for appeals courts and federal courts. Do note that the folks with the mobile home diaries were promptly convicted of all their nuisance charges, which were reversed 100% on appeal.

  2. #2 |  Ahcuah | 

    You also have to wonder if “Judge” Beth Dixon is fit for much of anything involving the use of the English language.

  3. #3 |  Dave Krueger | 

    You have to wonder if Officer Hunter is fit for police work if he’s so easily distracted that merely observing him from a distance qualifies as obstructing him from performing his duties.

    I’d say he’s probably as qualified as most other cops.

  4. #4 |  Officer Hunter | 

    Don’t look at me!

  5. #5 |  Officer Hunter | 

    Gary Oldham rocks in this movie! Now this is good police work!

  6. #6 |  capo | 

    I’ve said it before, if Police can’t handle these kinds of statutes responsibly, they should lose them.

    Resisting Arrest with no other charges needs to come off the books, and all the other bullcrap non-charges they get away with as well.

  7. #7 |  JS | 

    capo “Resisting Arrest with no other charges needs to come off the books, and all the other bullcrap non-charges they get away with as well.”

    And “disobeying a lawful order” Either we live under rule of law or we live under the whims of guys with badges and guns and apparently we don’t live under rule of law.

  8. #8 |  EH | 

    Tasers, dog-shooting, asset forfeiture, camera arrests…the judges are complicit, both those that rule and those that “sign” warrants.

  9. #9 |  Aresen | 

    And one has to wonder how big a campaign contribution District Court Judge Beth Dixon received from the police union.

  10. #10 |  Andrew S. | 

    This is another one of those times where, shaking in rage, I ask myself WHY ON EARTH DO I READ THE COMMENTS ON NEWS STORIES THAT RADLEY POSTS?

  11. #11 |  Elemenope | 

    #8

    When I used to read Reason Hit & Run, this was a constant trap for me. It’s very disconcerting to people around you when you start shouting at the monitor in rage.

  12. #12 |  Aresen | 

    Andrew S. | August 27th, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    This is another one of those times where, shaking in rage, I ask myself WHY ON EARTH DO I READ THE COMMENTS ON NEWS STORIES THAT RADLEY POSTS?

    Perhaps you are one of those people with critically low blood pressure and your doctor told you to find ways to raise it? ;P

  13. #13 |  jrb | 

    At some point, people are going to realize that ‘Failure To Be A Cop’ is a good law to have on the books so that cops don’t have to use these silly ‘Resisting Arrest’ or ‘Disobeying A Lawful Order’ things in order to throw people in jail.

  14. #14 |  OBTC | 

    If anyone is interested, you can leave a “message” for the TRAITOR TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, er, I mean the Honorable Beth Dixon at:

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Re-elect-Judge-Beth-Dixon/111322878878896

  15. #15 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    Peter Watts of rifters.com and Science Fiction fame
    was crossing the border months ago. As he *left* the USA for
    Canada they decided they needed to rifle through his car.
    He got out of his car and didn’t get back into his car fast enough and was beaten and pepper sprayed. Found guilty 3 months later
    of Resisting/Obstructing an Officer.
    He’s a convicted Felon now.
    In high school they called it “Insubordination.” Same fuckin’ thing.

  16. #16 |  Aresen | 

    @ Yizmo Gizmo | August 27th, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    Sheeeiiit! WTF is an “exit check”? Are Americans now going to need an ‘exit permit” to visit another country?

  17. #17 |  craig | 

    “Sheeeiiit! WTF is an “exit check”? Are Americans now going to need an ‘exit permit” to visit another country?”

    North Korea has similar policies

  18. #18 |  Michaelk42 | 

    We’ll have to see how long any comments actually last on that Facebook page.

  19. #19 |  Rick H. | 

    I’ve never found a way to comment on someone’s Facebook page without first “joining” them, “liking” them or otherwise giving them my endorsement. Is it possible?

  20. #20 |  Howlin' Hobbit | 

    I don’t have to wonder awfully long about Officer Hunter’s nor District Court Judge Beth Dixon’s fitness for their duties. The conclusion is painfully obvious and astoundingly absent from any major discourse in this country.

    They keep trying to give us bread and circuses, but the bread is getting scarcer and the circuses have long failed to amuse.

  21. #21 |  WROL: Another arrest for video recording, this time in NC « Restore The Constitution | 

    [...] not just going on in Maryland and Illinois.  From Salisbury (NC) Post by way of the Agitator (hyperlinks [...]

  22. #22 |  Daniel Almond | 

    Are we done being nice, “law abiding” citizens yet?

    Do you think one would get arrested for recording video of Judge Beth Dixon’s home address at 304 Confederate Ave, Salisbury, NC?

  23. #23 |  Andres | 

    Guy takes Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle a little too seriously.

  24. #24 |  Bernard | 

    I know this is obvious, but it still gobsmacks me that resisting arrest is a charge that can be applied on its own.

    It seems to me that for an innocent citizen resisting arrest is, both from a personal and from a civic point of view, the right thing to do.

  25. #25 |  ZappaCrappa | 

    WOW! And here I thought ALL this time that Divas were limited to high maintenance actresses and singers. Obviously there’s are a ton of ultra-sensitive, high maintenance pork out there too. Lighten up boys…take some Midol and change your pads and everything will be fine. Go shopping…that’s what my wife does when she gets the PMS blues.

  26. #26 |  David | 

    It’s all in how broadly you define it, Bernard. From the Police officers’ viewpoint, it seems that anyone not actively submitting to an arrest, is technically resisting arrest.

  27. #27 |  qwints | 

    There’s no denying that some people actually resist arrest and it seems reasonable to make fighting a cop an offense. I think that legitimate charges of resisting arrest could be covered by assault charges. That way we avoid these b.s. contempt of cop charges.

  28. #28 |  paranoiastrksdp | 

    off-topic but…

    Maine’s former top drug prosecutor James Cameron found guilty on child pornography charges

    http://www.onlinesentinel.com/news/judge-ex-prosecutor-guilty_2010-08-23.html

  29. #29 |  paranoiastrksdp | 

    “Why were you arrested?”
    “Resisting arrest”
    “Yeah but what did you do to initiate the arrest, I mean, why were you arrested in the first place?”
    “Resisting arrest”

    Seems like a guy named Kafka wrote some shit like that. only it was fiction.

  30. #30 |  Bob | 

    “Maine’s former top drug prosecutor James Cameron found guilty on child pornography charges”

    Is there any reliable evidence that viewing or collecting child pornography is a crime worthy of anything beyond a misdemeanor?

    No question, actually CREATING child pornography by hurting kids is a slam dunk felony offense.

    Instead of trying to put this guy in prison for years, which will in fact, allow violent predators to become more violent by raping him… wouldn’t a more sensible approach be to give him a court summons for a misdemeanor charge (punishable by a 1000 dollar fine), leave his computers alone, and then politely ask for his assistance in finding the actual criminals? The ones who are hurting kids?

    I don’t care that this guy is a Drug Prosecutor, if I have any hate for him because of that, that’s a separate issue.

    I submit that treating mere possession as a felony serves to cut off any possibility of cooperation for the vast majority of offenders, as well as tie up valuable resources that could be used to find actual Child Pornographers.

  31. #31 |  Mannie | 

    The only solution to this is civilian review boards with power to fire. It would probably be better if citizens were drafted to the board for a while, like juries.

  32. #32 |  Officer Hunter | 

    I modeled my professional behavior on the greatest North Carolina lawman evah. And a great constitutional scholar!.

  33. #33 |  Bob | 

    “Why were you arrested?”
    “Resisting arrest”
    “Yeah but what did you do to initiate the arrest, I mean, why were you arrested in the first place?”
    “Resisting arrest”

    Seems like a guy named Kafka wrote some shit like that. only it was fiction.

    Technically, the arrest is for Impeding, which is in the same statute. So there WAS an action that preceded the actual arrest. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t bullshit. Police should be trying NOT to arrest people, not looking for any excuse, however weak, to make an arrest.

    The question the cop’s superiors should be asking is: “Did you have to arrest this person? Did you either have an Arrest Warrant, was the person out of control or overly combative, or did you have probable cause that a felony was committed?”

    If the answer is “No”, then disciplinary actions should be brought against the officer, and any ‘arrest’ immediately nullified.

    But that’s not how the Police work.

  34. #34 |  EH | 

    DanielProvocateur@22: How much is the FBI paying you?

    Bob@33: Kill ‘em all, let God sort ‘em out. Arrest ‘em all, let the prosecutor sort ‘em out. Police are in the business of making arrests, it’s how they get paid. They’re never, ever going to institute a minimum standard.

  35. #35 |  Cynical in CA | 

    I wrote recently that people tend to try to get away with that which they think they can get away with.

    This will never change, it is an element of human nature. And political power acts as both a catalyst and an accelerant to the trend.

    I suppose, in the end, what this blog and its readers can achieve is to chip away at the amount of things that people think they can get away with.

    It’s all we’ve got, but I guess it’s better than nothing.

  36. #36 |  Nicolas | 

    The woman is Black and the local protesters are Black. Where are the famous White defenders of liberty and constitutional rights? Where is the Tea Party when a Black woman is treated unjustly?

    http://www.salisburypost.com/News/082510-Protesting-Salisbury-qcd

  37. #37 |  Radley Balko | 

    Where are the famous White defenders of liberty and constitutional rights?

    Where did you first read about the case? On what website did you just post your comment?

  38. #38 |  Michaelk42 | 

    From the Facebook:

    “Re-elect Judge Beth Dixon I am prohibited by the Code Of Judicial Conduct from publically commenting on any pending case. My decision was very fact- specific and I do wish that I was able to discuss my thought process. The good thing about our system is that Ms. Gibson has the right to appeal my judgment and I take absolutely no offense to her decision to do so.”

  39. #39 |  albatross | 

    There’s probably no way for policemen to do their jobs without, in the end, giving them powers to arrest and otherwise hassle people that can be abused. The right answer here probably isn’t trying to get rid of those powers, but rather to put mechanisms in place to make it a bad career move to go around abusing them.

  40. #40 |  pyo1 | 

    They will never repeal their ignorant laws that have already been passed. This is the ruling we need across this country!

    Resisting Arrest: Not A Crime

    http://www.apbweb.com/cops-speak-out/1405-resisting-arrest-not-a-crime.html

    Written by Dennis Slocumb

    The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office in the Portland, Oregon area recently sent out a memo regarding a resisting case (State v. Oliphant) and its decision’s effect on Oregon law enforcement. In essence, the ruling says: an arrestee may defend himself against a police officer’s use or imminent use of force if the arrestee believes, as much as a reasonable person in his position would believe, that the officer’s use or imminent use of force exceeds the force reasonably necessary to make the arrest.

    Oregon effectively is now the only state that gives a suspect charged with Resisting Arrest (ORS 162.315) an affirmative defense that they were defending themselves against what they reasonably believed was an actual or imminent unlawful use of force by a police officer.

    Accompanying charges including Assault on a Public Safety Officer will likely be dismissed if the argument stands.

    The full case can be viewed at: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/S056404.htm

    Dennis Slocumb is the vice president of legislative affairs for the International Union of Police Associations.

  41. #41 |  pyo1 | 

    “Re-elect Judge Beth Dixon I am prohibited by the Code Of Judicial Conduct from publically commenting on any pending case. My decision was very fact- specific and I do wish that I was able to discuss my thought process. The good thing about our system is that Ms. Gibson has the right to appeal my judgment and I take absolutely no offense to her decision to do so.”

    I guess she isn’t allowed to uphold the law either since she puts it that way! Letting the imps judiciate from the badge is bad precedence no matter which direction you view it from!

  42. #42 |  pyo1 | 

    @#30- “I submit that treating mere possession as a felony serves to cut off any possibility of cooperation for the vast majority of offenders, as well as tie up valuable resources that could be used to find actual Child Pornographers.”

    I submit that downloading, viewing and sharing this stuff is further victimizing this child. Look around a bit and figure who your major CP distributors are! Why would the cops want to hang themselves? Where do you think they get this from when they run their so-called busts?

    While I do agree that the producer and distributors of such filth are the larger criminal, the victims have no control of any of it.

  43. #43 |  pyo1 | 

    “Maine’s former top drug prosecutor James Cameron found guilty on child pornography charges”

    Bob, would you not call this the height of hypocrisy? A person who gets off on prosecuting people who harmed noone? Yet his extra-curricular activity suggests that he enjoys watching the victims of his own crime!

  44. #44 |  pyo1 | 

    “when the officer told her and others to go inside”

    Cops would love it if everything that spewed from their piehole was a “lawdul order”, but it isn’t! I think these KIDS need remedial training on what is/isn’t the law! Then they can work on the BoR and Constitution!

  45. #45 |  Matt | 

    “The only solution to this is civilian review boards with power to fire. It would probably be better if citizens were drafted to the board for a while, like juries.”

    More slavery by intimidation to counter-balance the other slavery by intimidation. Yup, that’ll work.

  46. #46 |  NC Freedom » Another arrest for video recording, this time in NC | 

    [...] not just going on in Maryland and Illinois.  From Salisbury (NC) Post by way of the Agitator (hyperlinks [...]

  47. #47 |  All NC Freedom Posts » Another arrest for video recording, this time in NC | 

    [...] not just going on in Maryland and Illinois.  From Salisbury (NC) Post by way of the Agitator (hyperlinks [...]

  48. #48 |  Laura Victoria | 

    Judge Dixon could have issued a written ruling to express her thought processes, assuming she has any other than wanting police union contributions. I don’t see why she still can’t write one.

    And the right to appeal won’t mean much given the deference an appellate court gives to factual findings. As Her Honor stated, the case is very fact specific. Further, appeals are expensive and you don’t get your money back if you win. Trial court judges and DAs in misdemeanor cases especially bank on the fact that rarely will the apppellate option be exercised.

  49. #49 |  celticdragonchick | 

    Where did you first read about the case? On what website did you just post your comment?

    I think his point still stands that that aging, well to do white tea party protesters will not likely bother to protest anything having to do with police power abuses against African Americans.

    Unfortunately.

  50. #50 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    Mannie – Or…take away charging decisions from the police. Make them file paperwork, every time, justifying to a separately funded and organised department why those charges are required.

    It’s cut down *massively* on police abuses in the UK. Of course, it’s being reversed by the Coalition because they can’t have that…

  51. #51 |  Michaelk42 | 

    @48

    An excellent point. We’ll see if Dixon responds to it at all on her re-election page.

  52. #52 |  celticdragonchick | 

    @51

    Indeed. BTW, I am Annemarie Dickey on the Facebook page. I absolutely intend to go to protests in her hometown if at all possible. The woman is a disgrace to the bench and our state.

  53. #53 |  Michael | 

    #49

    You are erroneous when you assume all “tea party” members are, all, racists! In th end, your opinion makes you no different than the racists you and I both hate! There is no mention of race, in my Bible. Christians should know better. But, a lot of them know nothing about true Christianity. They forget about it the second they exit the building on Sunday! They ain’t perfect, either!

    Black or white, the police state is out to screw us all over. Being poor is bad enough. Being black and poor is a guarantee that the racists , everywhere in the justice system, will screw blacks over! And why wouldn’t they be there, in the justice system. I have seen them in all walks of life, including the medical profession!

    Liberals are not lacking when it comes to racist members.

    There are plenty of red neck Democrats I know that would also qualify, as racists, here in the styx!

  54. #54 |  celticdragonchick | 

    @53

    You are erroneous when you assume all “tea party” members are, all, racists! In th end, your opinion makes you no different than the racists you and I both hate! There is no mention of race, in my Bible. Christians should know better. But, a lot of them know nothing about true Christianity. They forget about it the second they exit the building on Sunday! They ain’t perfect, either!

    Historically, older and financially established white people in this country have consistently failed to protest or make demands for justice where it has been denied to minorities. Remember how the Freedom Riders where young college kids who were rebelling against “the system”? Remember how NC Senator Jesse Helms called the University of North Carolina the “university of negroes and communists” and who said, in response to vigils on college campuses by students in the wake of Martin Luther King’s death, “They should ask their parents if it would be all right for their son or daughter to marry a Negro.”
    http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2008/07/goodbye_jesse_helms.php

    He could get away with that because the default suspicion in this country is that any advancement or improvement to minorities will come at a price to white people. Hence, the infamous “White hands” ad Helms used successfully to get re-elected. This suspicion and resentment has been exploited by powerful white power brokers in the South since the Civil War. The joke, of course, is that the power brokers are just as contemptuous of “white crackers” as they are of African Americans. The infamous “intelligence tests” for voting were used to keep out poor white farmers as well as black farmers.

    Sorry, but there it is. Tea Party protesters are concerned about a perceived threat to their own status, and they are not going to be particularly concerned about helping a black woman harassed by the police. The Tea Party is not protesting police power grabs. They are protesting about illegal, uppity minorities and a guy that most of them think was born in Kenya. They are being cynically pushed along by Dick Armey for now, and the funding and attention from Freedom Works and Fox news will magically vanish if a Republican is elected next term. Not one of the Tea party concerns will actually be addressed, of course. They are the white cracker farmers of today, and they are useful to the power brokers only as long as the black guy in the white house is around.

  55. #55 |  Michaelk42 | 

    Yep, looks like she nuked every negative comment on the page… imagine that!

  56. #56 |  Nicolas | 

    Mr. Balko, I didn’t read about the case of your website first, if that is your Balkocentric implication, and I’ve had no luck interesting the North Carolina Tea Party in this incident. You are not the center of the activist universe.

  57. #57 |  Radley Balko | 

    Nicolas —

    I didn’t suggest that I was the “center of the activist universe.” You implied that white people and libertarians have no interest in injustices done to poor people and minorities. I was merely pointing out the irony of you making that comment on a website run by a white libertarian who writes about injustice, in most cases injustice done to poor people and minorities.

  58. #58 |  JOR | 

    The main error Nicolas and celticdragon are making is conflating “aging white tea-party members” with “aging white libertarians” (and who the hell isn’t in the process of aging? did some folks figure out how to make time move backwards? if you mean old then just say “old”.) How many of the former would even describe themselves as libertarians is debatable.

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