Resistance to Authority

Criminal defense lawyer specialist in Resistance to Authority

What is resistance to authority?

Lawyers' Resistance to Authority

The crime of resistance to authority consists of resisting or seriously disobeying the authority or its agents in exercising their functions or private security personnel, duly identified, who carry out private security activities in cooperation with and under the command of the Security Forces and Corps.

Resistance is a refusal to do something legally obliged and ordered by the authority, its agents, or public officials in exercising their functions. It is a corporal resistance, constituted by the use of force, even if it is passive.

Before discussing this crime further, we must explain what jurisprudence understands by authority, agents of the authority, or officials.

  • Authority: Described by article 24.1 of the criminal code: «For criminal purposes, the authority shall be considered to be the person who alone or as a member of a corporation, court or collegiate body has command or exercises jurisdiction.»
  • The authority’s agent shall be the one who executes orders from the authority or acts on its behalf, provided that there is a legal bond for it in a special relationship of dependence.
  • Public official: Article 24.2 of the criminal code defines a public official as «anyone who, by immediate provision of the Law or by election or appointment by competent authority, participates in the exercise of public functions.»


The distinction between one type of resistance or another and its seriousness is tricky and must be analyzed on a case-by-case basis. However, the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court outlines some fairly straightforward characters as a starting point.

Depending on whether the opposition is active or inactive and its seriousness, three types of conduct are distinguished: simple active resistance, active severe resistance, and passive resistance.

a) Serious active resistance (understood as that which is carried out with severe intimidation or violence). It was called an Attempt against authority and legislated in Article 550 PC.

b) Serious passive resistance and non-serious or simple active resistance. Called Resistance to Authority and legislated in Article 556 PC.

Although Article 556 PC’s resistance is passive, it can coincide with some manifestation of violence or intimidation, of moderate tone and rather defensive and neutralizing characteristics, for example, in the subject’s struggle with the authority agents.

c) Passive resistance not severe (or mild):

    • Suppose it is carried out against the authority. It is a minor crime of resistance, legislated in Article 634 CP.
    • If it is carried out against agents of the authority, it has been decriminalized and may be applicable to the LO 4/2015 of Protection of Public Safety.

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Serious Active Resistance

Serious active resistance is the aggravated form of the crime of resistance to authority. It consists of seriously resisting or actively opposing the orders or directives of the authority or its agents when they are executing their functions.

For the consummation of this crime, the following requirements must take place:

  • There must be an order from the authorities, regardless of whether it is to do or not to do something.
  • The active subject actively resists, i.e., they voluntarily fail to comply with the order of the authority.
  • The active subject’s resistance must be severe.

This crime is very similar to attacking an authority, with the difference that, in the latter, the active subject executes the action with serious intimidation or violence to cause damage or harm to the authority. However, in the crime of resistance, the perpetrator’s objective is not to comply with the authority’s order.

Art. 556 PC typifies the crime of resistance or serious disobedience to the authority or its agents, which is punishable by a prison sentence of three months to one year or a fine of six to eighteen months.

Simple Active Resistance

Article 556 of the Penal Code typifies the crime of simple or non-serious active resistance and punishes those who, without being included in Article 550, seriously resist or disobey the authority or its agents during the exercise of their functions, as well as private security personnel when collaborating with the State Security Forces and Corps.

The main difference with the crime of active severe resistance is precisely the intensity of the resistance offered. In simple active resistance, the active subject disobeys or resists the orders of the authority but with a considerably lower level of resistance.

It has a certain subjective character. Since it is difficult to determine when the resistance offered by the perpetrator is serious or simple, it is necessary to analyze the case and the specific circumstances.

This offense carries a prison sentence of three months to one year or a fine of six to eighteen months.

Passive Resistance

Article 556 of the Penal Code also includes passive resistance to authority and simple active resistance.

It is a misdemeanor that consists of passively resisting the orders issued by the authorities or their agents.

A distinction is made between passive severe resistance, which is punishable by three months to one year’s imprisonment or a fine of six to eighteen months, and non-serious or minor passive resistance, for which only a penalty may be imposed.

In contrast to active resistance, passive resistance is not usually carried out directly against the authority. An example would be when the person responsible for a crime who has to testify does not move or hold on to some furniture to hinder the process.

Penalties for the crime of resisting the authority

Resisting the authority or its agents in the exercise of their duties is punishable by imprisonment for three months to one year or a fine of six to eighteen months.

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The crime of resisting arrest in the Criminal Code

Article 556 of the Penal Code typifies the crime of resistance to authority, which is included in the crimes against public order.

The legal property protected by this crime is the proper functioning of public services and functions.

It is an intentional crime since the active subject voluntarily resists the indications dictated by the authority, being aware that he is committing a crime.