What is Obstruction of Justice?
Obstructing an Officer, or simply Obstruction, is statutorily defined by State law as occurring when “a person who by threats, menaces, acts or otherwise forcibly or illegally hinders or obstructs or attempts to hinder or obstruct a law-enforcement officer . . . .” W. Va. Code § 61-5-17(a). The City of Morgantown has a similarly worded municipal ordinance.
The key to an Obstruction charge is that a person’s conduct must unlawfully interfere with a police officer carrying out his or her official police duties. A person’s actions must violate the law to fall within the definition of Obstruction. If a person is doing what he or she has a lawful right to do, then their conduct does not fall within the definition of Obstruction.
For example, asking a police officer to leave private property is not Obstruction. Refusing to identify oneself to a police officer is not Obstruction.
Defenses for Obstruction of Justice
There are many different defenses to an Obstruction charge. They including:
- Showing that the conduct was not illegal or unlawful
- Proving that the actions were protected under the First Amendment, such as free speech and the right to peacefully assemble
- Demonstrating that the conduct did not hinder a police officer in carrying out his or her duties
Many different factors come into consideration in defending an Obstruction charge. The key to beating an obstruction of justice charge is to present a defense in your support with evidence and purpose. Thus, it is important to contact an experience criminal defense attorney when faced with an Obstruction charge.