ORLANDO, Fla. — State Attorney Aramis Ayala said she has created a new program specifically aimed at changing how resisting arrest cases in Orange and Osceola counties are prosecuted.
Under the new policy, prosecutors have more discretion when prosecuting cases of resisting an officer without violence.
“We have consistently heard that some members of law enforcement use this charge as a weapon when people don’t immediately respond to their commands, or if they ask too many questions before complying, or simply if they make an encounter more difficult for the officer,” Ayala said during a Zoom call.
Ayala says the new policy would not prevent police from arresting a person on resisting-arrest charges, but some in the law enforcement community said the policy could cause confusion about the law.
“I understand and support the desire for criminal justice reform”, Orange County Sheriff John Mina said in a statement, “but these decisions should be thoughtful, and carefully considered by all members of the law enforcement community and their stakeholders. I am extremely concerned this action will cause confusion in our community.”
Mina said his office wasn’t consulted about the policy and only learned of the changes from the media.
“I was surprised to be informed of this policy change through the media. The State Attorney did not confer with me, or other law enforcement leaders I’m aware of, when considering this action,” Mina said.
Orlando police Chief Orlando Rolón said his department only received notice of the changes Tuesday morning as well.
“We received the policy this morning and are reviewing it. We will continue to work with the SAO in our shared mission to ensure the safety of everyone in this community and for just accountability when laws are violated,” Rolón said.
While the policy change is not just about recent protests Ayala said data shows African Americans make up 63% of stand-alone resistance cases while only making up 22% of the population.
“In many cases, these peaceful protesters have been met by efforts to silence them and to crush their First Amendment rights to get them off the streets and out of the public view,” Ayala said.
In Florida resisting an officer without violence is considered a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and up to a $1,000 in fine.
Now, the new policy creates a diversion program where those arrested can watch an educational video about resisting crimes and the law.
Once a person completes the program, the charges are dismissed and removed from their record.
People may only participate in the program once during a six-month period.
The video, which was posted to the state attorney’s office website, is designed to educate the public on the law.
You can watch the video here.