Officer Alleges that Defendant Obstructed Official Business By Delaying Car From Being Towed
An officer arrived at the scene of a disabled vehicle on an off-ramp. When he arrived, he saw a woman standing next to the car while her daughter remained inside. She told the officer that she called Nationwide Insurance to tow her vehicle.
After waiting several minutes for the tow truck, the officer called another towing company to have the vehicle removed.
The driver’s sister arrived in an SUV and pulled up next to the disabled vehicle, blocking a second lane of traffic on the off-ramp. She took the daughter out of the car and put her the SUV. When asked by the officer, she moved the SUV directly in front of the disabled vehicle so as not to block traffic.
The tow truck arrived but it wasn’t able to tow the car right away because the sister’s SUV was in the way. Shortly thereafter, the defendant in this case – the brother of the driver – arrived to help.
The defendant approached the officer and asked if he could talk to the tow truck driver to see if they could have the vehicle privately towed. The officer allowed it, but they were unable to arrange for a private tow. The tow truck driver and the defendant began arguing.
The defendant started recording the events on his cell phone. The video begins with the tow truck driver raising his middle finger to the defendant (the brother) as he tows sister’s vehicle. The defendant is behind the guardrail and out of the street. The video also shows the defendant telling his sisters to get out of the
way and for the other sister to move her SUV.
The video then records the officer approaching the defendant and asking for identification. The officer said he was causing a problem, that he was obstructing official business and that he needed to see I.D. The officer would not allow him to leave.
The officer arrested the non-driver sister and then asked to search the defendant for weapons. The defendant informed the officer that he worked in heating and air conditioning and had a work razor that he used for his job on his person. The officer confiscated the razor and cited the defendant for obstructing official business.
Decision: Insufficient Evidence to Establish Obstruction of Official Business
The obstruction of official business statute states:
“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 his official capacity, shall do any act which hampers or impedes a public official in the performance of his lawful duties.”
Here, the purported act that allegedly impeded law enforcement in the performance of their duties was the defendant’s “purposeful, affirmative action in delaying the car from being towed.”
Ohio courts have repeatedly required an an affirmative act for the offense of obstructing official business.
Here, the defendant did not commit an affirmative act. The defendant was behind the guardrail, away from the tow truck when the car was being towed.
Likewise, he did not actually impede the investigation. His presence was, at most, an inconvenience for the officer as he dealt with the disabled vehicle blocking traffic. However, the tow truck driver successfully towed the vehicle, removing the obstacle from the road and allowing traffic to freely flow.
Thus, the elements of obstructing official business were not met. The conviction was reversed and charges dismissed.