Uncooperative or Unlawful? Obstructing Officers in the Face of Disorder

Posted on in Criminal Defense

protest march, demonstration, obstruction, Illinois criminal defense attorney, free speech, obstruction of officers,  With violence erupting across the nation in response to Michael Brown’s controversial death in Ferguson, Missouri, protesters are continuing to take matters into their own hands. What began as a solemn candlelight vigil for Brown on August 9, 2014, has since escalated into violence, landing hundreds of protesters in jails across the nation. Despite federal law enforcement intervention, the arrest rates have only continued to increase. Resisting and obstructing officers, obstructing justice, and refusing to disperse are among the many unlawful actions protesters resorted to in the face of police intervention.

Though the demonstrations supporting Brown’s cause have yet to reach Illinois, the issues surrounding the arrests are relevant to citizens here and everywhere. In many situations, there is a fine line between obstructing an officer, obstructing justice, committing a violent crime, or simply acting within your legal rights.

What is Obstructing an Officer?

This is the category that we refer to colloquially as “resisting arrest.” In Illinois, resisting or obstructing an officer occurs when a person “knowingly resists or obstructs the performance by one known to the person to be a peace officer . . . acting within his or her official capacity.” Essentially, obstruction of an officer is any physical act that interferes with the officer’s objective in apprehending an arrestee or an intentional failure to follow police instruction. This type of behavior is what caused the vast majority of arrests in Missouri and more recently at a Brown-supporter demonstration in California. If found guilty, a defendant may be convicted of either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the severity of the circumstances.

How is Obstructing Justice Different Than Obstructive an Officer?

While obstructing an officer involves physical actions, obstructing justice refers to an arrestee’s actions that interfere with the police’s ability to obtain information or properly carry out their investigation. For example, inconsistencies in witness accounts led to speculation that some witnesses, including police personnel, may have provided false information that may interfere with the Brown investigation. Illinois law provides a non-exhaustive list of unlawful actions that could lead to an obstruction of justice charge, such as destroying or altering physical evidence, planting false evidence, or providing false information to an officer. Illinois considers obstructing justice a serious crime that can lead to felony charges. If it is discovered an individual obstructed justice and hindered a police investigation, they will likely be charged to the full extent the law allows.

What if I Want to Know More About My Rights?

If you have been charged with obstructing an officer or obstructing justice, the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel LLC, Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney can help you navigate your legal rights. Regardless of whether your arrest arose from a demonstration, a traffic stop, at your home, or in a public place, if you are in Chicago or surrounding communities, our experienced Illinois defense attorneys will protect your rights.

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