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Refusing Officer’s Request for Identification Not Enough for an Obstruction of Official Business Charge

The issue in this case has come up in previous cases, but it worth emphasizing here.  If there has been no suspicious activity, and no criminal act, the refusal to stop and provide your name and identification to a police officer is not alone enough for an obstruction of official business charge.

In this case, in the early morning hours, the defendant went for a walk because he was having trouble sleeping.  The officer testified that he saw the defendant walking at 2:30 a.m. and requested his identification.

The defendant refused to provide I.D. and kept walking. The offer asked the defendant a second time to stop, and the defendant again kept walking.  After a third request, the defendat turned around and asked the officer why he was stopping him.

The officer said he thought the defendant looked young and that he wanted to verify his age to determine whether he was out past curfew.  The city has an 11:00 p.m. curfew for youths under age 18.

The defendant believed that the officer had no legitimate reason for stopping him and refused to state his name or age. The officer arrested the defendant took him to the police department.  At the station, the defendant identified himself and stated that he was 24 years old.  He was charged with obstructing official business.

At trial, the defendant was found guilty and was given a $100 fine, which the court suspended along with court costs.  The defendant appealed.

The municipal ordinance at issue (which is nearly identical to Ohio’s obstructing official business law) stated:

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.

To prove the crime of obstructing official business, there must be proof of an affirmative or overt act that hampered or impeded the performance of the lawful duties of a public official.  Mere refusal to answer a police officers questions regarding your identity cannot support a conviction for obstructing official business.

The “affirmative act” that the state argued supported a conviction here was the repeated refusal to stop when asked by the officer.

The Court of Appeals disagreed, finding that the defendant did not commit an affirmative act prior to his arrest.  He did not commit any crime or act suspiciously. There were no reports of crimes or suspicious activity that evening.  Thus, there was insufficient evidence to support a conviction, and the judgment was vacated.

The case at issue was City of Brooklyn v. Kaczor, 8th Dist. No. 98816 (July 3, 2013).

If you or a friend or family member have been charged with obstructing official business and have questions about the circumstance of your arrest or about your case, contact our obstruction of official business attorneys for a free consultation.