You can face severe penalties for obstructing a peace officer in California. Therefore, it is essential to understand what constitutes obstruction and the strategies a criminal defense lawyer can use to reduce or eradicate these types of charges.
California Penal Code §148 PC Penalties
California Penal Code §148 PC outlines the types of punishments you can face for obstructing law enforcement or resisting arrest. The offense is categorized as a misdemeanor that can result in up to $1,000 in fines and one year in county jail. However, in some circumstances, a defendant may receive summary probation in place of a jail sentence.
Your penalties for obstructing peace or EMT officers can vary based on whether:
- It is a repeated offense within the last 24 months.
- You used physical force against the law enforcement official.
- The charge is filed in connection with another offense.
Under PC §148, a person must be found guilty of willfully obstructing, resisting, or delaying a law enforcement official or EMT worker. In addition, the prosecuting team must prove that the accused knew or should have known that the peace officer was attempting to perform official duties when the obstruction occurred.
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What Qualifies as “Obstruction” in California?
In California, peace officers include police officers, marshalls, and EMT professionals. A peace officer can also be a member of certain governmental agencies, such as the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Fish and Game. Therefore, any interference with these authorities while they are fulfilling their civic duties can violate PC §148.
Examples of resisting arrest or obstructing peace officers include:
- Distracting EMT officials while they provide medical care
- Providing false or misleading information during an interrogation
- Struggling or attempting to flee when being placed under arrest
- Preventing officials from traveling to a crime or accident scene
- Interfering while a peace officer interviews a witness
- Working to block police from monitoring a suspect in custody
To receive obstruction charges, a defendant must act willfully or on purpose. Therefore, the defendant may not actually break the law or hurt another person when accused of obstructing a peace officer in California. As long as they intend to resist or obstruct law enforcement officials, they may be charged with the misdemeanor.
Defenses to Obstruction Charges in California
If you receive charges under California Penal Code §148, there are legal defenses you can use to reduce or dismiss your penalties. However, this can be difficult to do alone. The most effective way to beat obstruction charges is by partnering with a skilled criminal defense lawyer in California.
Your attorney will evaluate your case and present a strong defense to the judge. The most common defenses to obstruction charges are false arrests, lack of willfulness, and no probable cause.
Claiming False Arrest
A police officer must have reason to arrest a person. But, unfortunately, peace officers can act out of line and make unlawful arrests. Examples of this occurring include stopping a citizen because:
- A person questions why they are being placed under arrest
- The police officer acts on racial profiling
- The responding officer disagrees with the individual’s attitude
Once under arrest, a police officer may attempt to justify their misconduct by making false accusations and claiming the person violated PC §148. Your defense counsel can prove that you are a victim of false detainment or arrest by collecting:
- Videos or police bodycam footage from the incident
- Statements from witnesses
- Information about the police officer in question to determine if they have a history of misconduct or racial aggression
Proving false accusations is possible, but you need the assistance of an experienced defense attorney. A credible defense lawyer will ensure you receive justice and will not allow you to suffer penalties due to police officer misconduct.
Under PC §148, a person must act willfully in order to receive charges. Therefore, if a defendant can prove that they did not commit obstruction on purpose, they may not be charged with a crime.
For example, your defense lawyer can demonstrate to the judge that you interfered with a police officer’s work by accident and did not know that you were meddling with official business. If your attorney is successful, you may receive reduced obstruction charges or get your case dropped altogether.
Establishing a Lack of Probable Cause
Under the Fourth Amendment, all law enforcement officials must exhibit probable cause when making an arrest. Therefore, your defense lawyer can use evidence to prove how the arrest lacked probable cause, making it an improper stop.
When indicting a defendant, the prosecuting team must exhibit proof beyond a reasonable doubt. But a defense lawyer can raise enough doubt to demonstrate that the arrest lacked probable cause. Any lack of probable cause warrants exclusion, resulting in a defendant getting their PC 148 charges reduced or dropped altogether.
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Contact Our Criminal Defense Team to Fight Your Charges
California residents can face severe penalties for obstructing peace officers, but not when they have a skilled criminal defender in their corner. The dedicated legal professionals at Simmrin Law Group can review your claim and determine the most effective way to fight your obstruction charges. Contact us now to get started.