Interfering with Police / Resisting Arrest
The charge of interfering with an officer can occur in a wide range of situations ranging from failure to cooperate when asked to produce your identification, resisting arrest, to fighting with an officer. I want to point out at the outset that this crime is different than other crimes in that the officer is the actual victim and complaining witness of the alleged offense. In most criminal cases the Police are merely investigating crimes were the victims are other citizens. What sets this crime apart is that the Police officer is both the arresting officer and the complaining victim who is testifying against you. This is why if you have been charged with interfering with an officer you need to hire an experienced Connecticut criminal defense attorney to represent you and defend your rights. Make no mistake this is a serious charge and a conviction can have serious consequences including jail time and probation, not to a permanent criminal record and its effects on your ability to secure employment.
In one common scenario , the Police responding to a 911 call are often summoned into difficult situations in which tempers are hot and the parties involved may be very agitated. When people are engaged in such volatile and erratic confrontations they often are not thinking clearly and their anger and frustration takes control of their emotions. When Police arrive to intercede and calm down the situation if they are met with resistance and confrontation they are going to start to make arrests for interfering with Police. This is only one example of many in which the crime of interfering with an officer may occur. It is a very commonly charged crime in Connecticut and is applied to a wide range of situations. Interfering with an officer can be a difficult charge to defend against unless you have solid legal representation on your side. Keep in mind that in the case of interfering with an officer the State views the Police officer as the victim of the crime so often they take these kind of charges quite seriously. If you have been charged with interfering with an officer you will need to retain the services of a Stamford criminal defense lawyer to plan a defense strategy and protect your liberty. At the Law Offices of Allan F. Friedman we offer free initial consultations and we are open 24/7 at (203) 357-5555.Elements of the Charge of Interfering with an Officer
The statue for Interfering with Police is Conn. Gen. Statutes Sec. 53a-167a. This is a very broad, vague and poorly defined statue that gives a lot of power to Police to make arrests to basically anyone they want to who they feel are interfering with their duties. In analyzing the statue the first part that stands out that there is no requirement to prove a mental intent to interfere. In fact the statue is silent as to the mental intention of the actor. This makes this crime a much harder type of case to defend as the State does not have to prove what the mental intent of the Defendant was, only what the Defendant did.
Moving beyond the mental intent aspect, if we look at the body of the text of the statute we can see that it is one of the most broadly written and vague statutes in the Connecticut criminal law books. 53a-167a states in part that it is a crime to “obstruct, resist, hinder of endanger an officer . . . . in the performance of such officers duties.” If you are charged with this offense not only are you going up against a situation where it is your word against the Police officers’ word – or as is often the case – several police officers all saying the same thing but you also have the State’s Attorney who is always going to protect and defend the police. Thus these cases can often be difficult to defend and often require a lot of investigation to track down eye witness and any video evidence to prove your version of the facts.
Make no mistake the charge of interfering with an officer may be a misdemeanor offence but it is the highest level misdemeanor – a class A misdemeanor and as such if you are convicted of this offense you could face up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine not to mention up to 3 years of time on supervised probation. This is a serious charge and you are fighting against the word of a Police officer so you need the services of a tenacious Stamford criminal defense attorney who has experience defending allegations of interfering with police and who can fight back with an aggressive defense strategy to expose the weaknesses in the State’s case.What Kinds of Behaviors / Actions Can Constitute “Interfering with Police?”
The reality is that there is no bright line rule that establishes what constitutes interfering with police. By the very broad nature of the statue and the very vague and open ended language by which the statute was written it provides the Police a powerful tool to arrest almost anyone they want who they feel is not complying fast enough with their directives or who is “giving them a hard time.” It seems that these criteria shift wildly depending on the mood of the officer at the moment.
The obvious situations are easy to understand and do not require much thought. If you strike an officer, resist an arrest, spit at an officer, call an officer a name or ignore an officer’s order for example it is obvious that you are in clear violation of the statute. Also, refusal to cooperate with the booking process after you have been placed under arrest is another clear example of a violation of the statute. There is no grey area here. A lot of people get confused here, even some lawyers, because they think that there is a defense to this crime if the arrest was unlawful they are entitled to resist it. However, there is a separate statue for use of force to resist arrest – Conn. Gen. Statutes Sec. 53a-23 however that states that you do not have the right to use force to resist a lawful or an unlawful arrest. If you resisted arrest in any manner what so ever you can be arrested for interfering with an officer.
A whole other body of cases derive from attempts to mislead and provide false information to the police. For example, falsely reporting an incident. Providing a false name. Using a false ID. Misusing the 911 system. Falsely reporting a crime (which is also a separate offense). Lying to the Police about anything that hinders or obstructs the Police officer’s ability to conduct a Police investigation can be charged as interfering with Police.
I want to share with you a situation which I felt was really over the top and an example of abuse of power. This will illustrate how this statute can be really abused and why you should always be as polite and professional as possible when dealing with the police. In this situation my client was stopped for a minor motor vehicle stop and when the Police officer approached his car he demanded to know “why are you pulling me over, I did not do anything?” Despite the fact that my client had promptly stopped when the Police had activated his signal lights, provided all of his identification and vehicle documents my client was charged by the State with “Interfering with an Officer” because he had a “poor attitude” when he was stopped for his motor vehicle violation. Needless to say that we took that case to trial and eventually the State threw the charges out on the eve of the Jury trial. The lesson that we learn from that example is that the Police have wide power and discretion to charge you with interfering with an officer.
If the Police ask you for your identification under any circumstances and you question their authority and the reason why they are asking for your identification you can be charged with interfering with an officer.
A really grey area is the recent trend of citizens taking an active role to help protect the rights of others being arrested by making a video of an arrest and capturing the Police’s actions on video. I have run across a few clients who have been arrested while making such videos and charged with interfering with police. Make no mistake you have an absolute right to video tape the Police at any time anywhere they are in a public area. However, when they give you a command to move away from where they are effectuating an arrest it is not the time to engage them in a debate about your Constitutional rights and refuse to move. This will get you arrested for interfering with an officer. So I want to be clear on this subject. You have a absolute right to video tape the Police making an arrest. However, if you are too close to the scene and the Police feel that you pose a safety risk and ask you to move away you must comply with their orders.
The police may ask you to submit to a frisk search known as a “terry stop” in which the Police may have some probable cause to suspect that a crime may have occurred or is about to occur to look for dangerous weapons for their own safety. Also, in any motor vehicle stop if an officer has reasonable grounds to suspect that weapons may be present in the vehicle he may search all the occupants for weapons. The failure to comply with these search requests or the resistance to them or attempts to hide weapons or contraband will result in a charge of interfering with an officer.
I wanted to spend a little time to share you with what can NOT be EVER charged as interfering with police and which you should always not be afraid to do. Remember when asserting these rights you must at all times remain friendly and calm and comply with requests to provide your name, address and identification. Beyond that you always have the absolute right to:
- Remain silent and refuse to answer questions without a lawyer present
- Refuse to allow Police officers to enter into your home without a valid search warrant
- Refuse to engage in field sobriety tests
- You have the right to stop answering questions even if you have started to answer them at any time and request an attorney
If you have been arrested for Interfering with an Officer in Stamford or anywhere else in Connecticut you should contact an experienced Connecticut criminal defense lawyer to review all of the facts and details about your arrest and work to develop a defense strategy or game plan to fight the charges. In many cases it is your word against that of the arresting officer, which can be a tough case to defend. Often the best evidence against the charges is found through eye witnesses who may have observed what took place or who may have been present when the incident was alleged to have occurred. It is imperative to track down these witnesses and obtain statements from them before they move or forget important details of the incident. If the facts of your interfering allegation are minor and do not involve any injury to an officer or serious public safety concern often it may be possible to negotiate a reduction of the charges to the infraction of creating a public disturbance. This is a desirable outcome because it preserves your ability to participate in diversionary programs such as the accelerated rehabilitation program in the future. The use of the accelerated rehabilitation program should be considered a last resort unless the allegations are particularly serious for example when you engaged in a physical confrontation with an officer.
Police body cameras are slowly working their way into use in Stamford as of this time in 2017 there is a limited amount of approximately 25 police body cameras in use. However there is no formal policy or plan in place for the collection, maintenance and preservation of the footage which is being recorded by these body cameras. Most Stamford Police cars do have dash cameras but in many cases the incidents which give rise to the interfering arrest take place out of the sight of the police cruisers dash camera. What is apparent is that any effective defense against an interfering charge will require, where appropriate, an immediate Motion to Preserve all video evidence that the Police have before they either destroy it or tape over it. If you wait too long that evidence will be gone forever. Not totally surprisingly there has been push back by local Police agencies to adopt this technology which sheds light on the truth on what actually transpires and gives a unbiased and conclusive record of what actually happened. As of late 2017 the Greenwich Police department has not adopted the use of body cameras in its department.
The best Stamford criminal defense attorneys will scrutinize every part of the State’s case, the Police Report, witness statements, transcripts of 911 call recordings and all other evidence in the case with an eye towards identifying inconsistencies and contradictions which can make the difference in obtaining a favorable outcome in your case. There is no substitute to hard work and preparation when it comes to defending a charge of interfering with an officer. The good news is that in most cases where there is no actual physical injury to the arresting officer these cases are resolved through a reduction of the charges or through the use of a diversionary program for first time offenders.Speak with an Experienced Attorney at the Law Offices of Allan F. Friedman Today Regarding Your Interfering with an Officer Arrest
If you have been charged with interfering with an officer an experienced Connecticut criminal defense attorney can make a difference by contesting the allegations against you and standing up for your rights. If you have been arrested for interfering with an officer you should quickly seek the counsel of a Stamford criminal defense lawyer at the Law Offices of Allan F. Friedman to review your case. Our fees are reasonable and we offer convenient payment plans. We accept all major credit cards. We always offer free initial consultations and we are available 24/7 at (203) 357-5555.