Home | Browse Topics | Government & legal system | Activism | Resisting arrest or obstructing the police

Government & legal system

Protests and the general criminal law

Resisting arrest or obstructing the police

Resisting arrest

Summary Offences Act 1981, s 23

It’s a criminal offence to obstruct a police officer or encourage another person to obstruct or resist a police officer. For this you can be jailed for up to three months, or fined up to $2,000.

This isn’t limited to physically interfering with an arrest – it can include giving false information, warning a friend who has committed an offence that the police are coming, or refusing to follow a lawful instruction.

Forming a human chain can be used to make it more difficult for individuals to be arrested. However, be aware that in some cases this could amount to the offence of obstructing the police.

Can I interfere if police are trying to arrest someone else?

Summary Offences Act 1981, s 23

Intervening to prevent the police arresting someone else could amount to the offence of obstructing the police.

Cases: R v Thomas [1991] 3 NZLR 141 (CA)

However, you may have a defence to this charge if you honestly believed that the police were using excessive force.

Next Section | Trespass

Did this answer your question?


Where to go for more support

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and information.

Treaty of Waitangi


This NZ History webpage has information about the Treaty of Waitangi and events and issues surrounding it. The website is run by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

Waitangi Tribunal


This website has information about the Waitangi Tribunal.

To start the Tribunal process of submitting a claim, you can either: call the Tribunal office for queries on (04) 914 3000, or email them at WT.Registrar@justice.govt.nz

Matike Mai Report


Matike Mai Aotearoa is an Independent Working Group dedicated to Constitutional Transformation based on tikanga and kawa in Aotearoa/New Zealand. This report outlines their vision, research and findings.

Human Rights Commission


The Human Rights Commission was set up in 1977 and works under the Human Rights Act 1993. Their purpose is to promote and protect the human rights of all people in Aotearoa New Zealand.

UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples


The UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) was set up in 2010 for the purpose of increasing the UN’s commitment to promoting and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples worldwide.

Privacy Commissioner


The Privacy Commissioner has a wide range of functions, including investigating complaints about breaches of privacy, running education programmes, and examining proposed legislation and how it may affect individual privacy.

Advocacy organisations and support services

Rainbow Youth


RainbowYOUTH provide a number of services, including advocacy for queer, gender diverse, takatāpui & intersex youth, their friends, whānau and wider communities.

Disabled Persons Assembly NZ


Disabled Persons Assembly NZ provides direct support and advocacy, and work in collaboration with others to achieve inclusion for all New Zealanders.

Mental Health Foundation


The Mental Health Foundation has useful links and resources for people dealing with mental health issues.



Police Brutality & Activist Trauma Support and Recovery


The Police Brutality & Activist Trauma Support and Recovery resource is a booklet made by activists for activists, with accessible information on what trauma is, how it affects people, and ideas for supporting yourself and others through it.

Also available as a book

The Community Law Manual

The Manual contains over 1000 pages of easy-to-read legal info and comprehensive answers to common legal questions. From ACC to family law, health & disability, jobs, benefits & flats, Tāonga Māori, immigration and refugee law and much more, the Manual covers just about every area of community and personal life.

Buy The Community Law Manual

Help the manual

We’re a small team that relies on the generosity of all our supporters. You can make a one-off donation or become a supporter by sponsoring the Manual for a community organisation near you. Every contribution helps us to continue updating and improving our legal information, year after year.

Donate Become a Supporter

Find the Answer to your Legal Question

back to top