Resident Charged with Obstruction of Official Business For Slamming the Front Door As Police Approached

In State v. Crawford, 2013-Ohio-4398, the Defendant was charged with one count of obstructing official business, in violation of R.C. 2921.31(A), a second degree misdemeanor.

In July of 2012, the police executed a search warrant for a residence. The search warrant was issued as a result of two controlled drug buys at the house by the police.  The defendant was the suspect described in the search warrant.

At least seven detectives went into the house, dressed in black cargo pants, shirts and raid vests that both said “Police”, black boots, helmets, and guns.

A detective testified that when the police approached the house, the main door was open but the glass storm door was closed.  The police could see a man and woman sitting on the couch in the living room.  As the police approached, a man (later identified as the Defendant) came to the front door, yelled “Police”, slammed the front door (but did not lock it) and ran further into the house.  The police then broke down the door.

The Defendant testified that he realized the people walking toward the house were armed, had helmets on, and wore glasses, but he didn’t yell “Police” before slamming the front door.

The defendant was charged with one count of obstructing official business.  He was found guilty.

Obstruction of Official Business Charge Dismissed Because Slamming Front Door Did Not Impede Officer’s Investigation

On appeal, he argued that the decision finding him guilty of obstructing official business was against the manifest weight of the evidence. He argues that nothing he did “hampered” or “impeded” the execution of the search warrant by police.

The crime of obstructing official business under R.C. 2921.31(A) says:

“No person, without privilege to do so and with purpose to prevent, obstruct, or delay the performance by a public official of any authorized act within the public official’s official capacity, shall do any act that hampers or impedes a public official in the performance of the public official’s lawful duties.”

The State argues that yelling “Police” and closing the front door are the overt acts that constitute obstructing official business.  As a direct result, the State argues, police were delayed in serving the search warrant.  He notified others in the house that police were coming, increased the possibility that evidence would be destroyed, gave others in the house the chance to arm themselves, and delayed police in clearing the front room of the house.

Generally, failing to cooperate with the police in the execution of a search warrant is insufficient as a matter of law to amount to obstructing official business. Cleveland v. Corrai, 70 Ohio App.3d 679, 591 N.E.2d 1325 (8th Dist.1990).

Here, when the defendant saw the police walking toward the house, and yelled ‘Police”, none of the officers had yet announced that they had a search warrant.  Further, none of the officers told the defendant to leave the door open.  So, because the defendant didn’t know that the police had a warrant, he couldn’t have done anything intentionally to hamper the warrant’s execution.

On this basis, the Court of Appeals overturned the defendant’s conviction and found that the evidence used to convict him was insufficient as a matter of law. Case dismissed.

If you or a family or friend has been charged with obstruction of official business in the Columbus area, our Columbus obstruction of official business attorneys can help.  Call 24/7 at (614) 361-2804 for advice regarding your obstruction of official business charge.

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