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What is Obstruction of Official Business in Ohio? 

Under Ohio law, it is a crime to hamper or impede a police officer or other public official in the performance of his or her official duties.

This charge encompasses a wide range of acts, including, for example:

  • Lying to a police officer;
  • Fleeing from an officer after being ordered to stop
  • Other affirmative acts that actually impede a law enforcement investigation.

There are a few interesting defenses, however, to the statute.  We regularly investigate these and other possible defenses to obstruction charges in order to get our clients the best possible outcome in their case.

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Defense: Must be an Affirmative Act

To be found guilty of obstruction of official business, you must have done some affirmative act.  That means that failure to act is not enough.  

For example, if a police officer asks you for identification and you refuse, that is not considered an “affirmative act” and therefore is not a crime under this statue.  This issue came up recently in an appellate court case in which the defendant refused to provide identification and his conviction for obstruction official business was overturned. 

Likewise, accidentally dialing 911 and then refusing to allow police to enter your home is not an “affirmative act” under the statute.   The “refusal to respond to the building entrance buzzer, open his door at the officers’ request, or consent to their entry are not affirmative acts, but omissions.” 

Defense: Act Must Actually Impede the Officer’s Investigation

Another effective defense is whether the act actually impeded the officer’s investigation.  

For example, if you lie to the police about hearing gunshots in your neighborhood, and this false statement does not actually impede the officer’s investigation of the shooting, then you should not be found guilty of obstruction.  

Likewise, yelling “police” or shutting the door when you see police coming up to your house was recently found to not be obstructing official business

What is the Penalty for Obstruction of Official Business?

Generally, obstruction of official business is a second degree misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail.  However, if the obstruction creates a risk of physical harm to anyone, it is a fifth-degree felony punishable by up to 12 months in jail.

To begin the process and discuss representation for your obstruction of official business charge, contact Riddell Law at 614-361-2804.   Because we know obstruction of official business and other criminal charges rarely happen during 9:00-5:00 working hours, we are there to take your call after hours, on evenings, weekends, and holidays.