Obstructing A Police Officer
Obstructing a Police Officer
If you have been charged with Obstructing a Police Officer please call or email me as soon as possible. Like nearly every other type of criminal charge, it is critical to be proactive and take some action to defend yourself before your next court date.
Obstructing a Police Officer is a misdemeanor under Rhode Island law. We in the criminal defense law field consider it to be a police intensive charge. The other police intensive charges include Assault and Battery upon a police officer, Resisting Arrest and Disorderly Conduct. There is no alleged victim of the offense of Obstructing a Police Officer. Instead, the alleged victim is the police officer who is attempting to execute his duties. Frequently, the charge of Obstructing a Police Officer results from an unpleasant altercation with a police officer.
If you have been charged with Obstructing a Police Officer you should know that most if not all prosecutors will assume that you are not a person who is worthy of the benefit of the doubt. In fact, it is likely that you will be viewed very unfavorably. This, amongst other reasons, is why it is so important to speak with a criminal defense attorney who can adequately represent you.
The Obstructing a Police Officer statute is very vague. It reads as follows:
“Every person who shall obstruct any officer, civil, military, or otherwise, including any state, city, or town police, sheriff, or fire fighter, while in the execution of his or her office or duty, shall be imprisoned not exceeding one year or be fined not exceeding five hundred dollars ($500).”
But what does this really mean?
The Rhode Island Supreme Court has addressed the Obstructing a Police Officer statute many times over the last thirty (30) to forty (40) years. To sustain a conviction for Obstructing a Police Officer, the prosecution must prove that:
- The Defendant acted knowingly,
- The Defendant obstructed a police officer,
- The Defendant knew that the person being obstructed was a police officer, and
- The police officer was performing an authorized act within his official capacity.
In this context, the word obstruct is further defined as interposing an obstacle or an impediment. It means to hinder, impede or in any way to intrude or prevent.
Additionally, the Court has repeatedly held that the legislative purpose behind the Obstructing a Police Officer statute is to enable or empower police officers to carry out their orders unobstructed by citizens. In fact, the Rhode Island Supreme Court has gone as far as stating that citizens must submit to the authority of a police officer. State v. Duffy, 441 A.2d 524, 525 (R.I. 1982).
Based on the foregoing analysis, the Rhode Island Supreme Court has extended the reach of the Obstructing a Police Officer statute to include spoken words. As the Court has held, in certain circumstances the spoken word can be just as effective in impeding a police officer as if the orator had grappled with the police officer.
The teaching point here is that whether or not a Defendant can be found guilty of Obstructing a Police Officer entirely depends upon the facts of the case. I have successfully represented people who have lied to police officers but have been found not guilty of Obstructing a Police Officer. I cannot reveal how here, but if you contact me, I will tell you exactly how I did it.