Obstruction is a legal term that refers to a wide range of criminal charges. The thing each charge described as obstruction has in common is they typically describe a actions that make it more difficult for law enforcement officers to do their job.
Some types of obstruction are misdemeanors. Giving a false name is often referred to in the legal world as misdemeanor obstruction. For example, Sally is out for a walk. She has done nothing wrong recently, but she knows she is in violation of her probation because she has not reported to her probation officer in months. A police officer in the area is investigating a burglary that was just committed up the street and decides to question Sally because she may have seen something. Sally, fearing the officer will discover she has an active probation warrant, gives the police officer a false name. Sally has just committed misdemeanor obstruction.
Running from a police officer can also be charged as misdemeanor obstruction. For example, Jay has just shoplifted a pack of cigarettes and some gum from his local gas station, the off duty police officer suspect that Jay may be shoplifting. The officer identifies himself as a police officer and clearly tells Jay to stay where he is. Instead, Jay sprints out of the store and tries to get away. The officer is much faster and apprehends Jay before he can get more than a block away. Jay is arrested and convicted of theft by shoplifting after the officer find the gum and cigarettes in Jay’s coat pocket. In addition to the shoplifting charge, Jay is also charged with misdemeanor obstruction for running from the police officer.
Obstruction can also be charged as a felony especially if things get violent. Pete has mental health issues including anxiety and fear being touched because of trauma he experienced as a child. One day Pete commits a burglary and as he is leaving the house that he burglarized he is caught red handed by two police officers who were tipped off to the burglary by a neighbor. As the officers approach Pete begins to panic. As the officer’s attempt to put him in handcuffs Pete takes a swing at the officer closest to him. A scuffle ensues and Pete struggles with the officer’s for quite a while until they finally use a taser on Pete. Pete will likely be charged with felony obstruction in addition to burglary.
A good way to avoid being charged with any form of obstruction is to try not to do anything that would make a police officer’s job more difficult. Giving false information such as an incorrect birth date can also result in charges of obstruction.
If you ever find yourself charged with obstruction, seek the advice of an attorney, like a Decatur criminal attorney, and try not to do anything that could be further construed as obstructive to a police officer trying to perform their duties.
Credit to our contributors from Andrew R. Lynch, P.C. for their insight into obstruction.