Obstructing an Officer, or commonly referred to as Obstruction, is a serious misdemeanor offense. It carries a possible statutory penalty of up to one year in jail and a fine up to $500. This a fairly common criminal offense that, unfortunately, is occasionally over-utilized and incorrectly applied by police officers.
Obstruction occurs 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). In State v. Johnson, 134 W.Va. 357, 59 S.E.2d 485 (1950), the Court held that the words “forcibly or illegally” mean any unlawful interference with the officer in the discharge of his or her official duties. Lawful conduct does not meet the definition of obstruction.
A person may be charged with Obstruction for resisting arrest, fleeing, interfering with the arrest of another person, or refusing to comply with a lawful order from a police officer.
Typically, someone charged with Obstruction will also be charged with other offense, such as Public Intoxication, Disorderly Conduct, or Underage Consumption. After being charged, a person will be taken before a magistrate or other judicial official to be arraigned and have bail set. The arraignment is not the time to plead your case as that will occur at a later hearing or trial.
It is very important to contact an attorney as soon as possible after being charged. That way, the necessary and appropriate steps can be taken to defend the charges. At The Moore Law Firm, we have defended many individuals charged with Obstruction and have had great success in doing so.