Obstructing an officer is a crime in Wisconsin.

Van Severen Law Office specializes in defending individuals accused of committing crimes throughout Wisconsin.  Frequently, when individuals lie to the police, they’re charged with an offense called obstructing an officer.  Certainly this is a serious criminal offense.  At Van Severen Law Office we believe that serious criminal charges deserve serious criminal defense.

If you are facing criminal charges, call us today.  Our criminal defense attorneys are certainly available to assist you.  Whether you face obstruction charges, or any other crime, give us a call.  We answer phones 24/7 at (414) 270-0202.

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What is obstructing an officer?

Section 946.41 of the Wisconsin Statutes defines this offense:

“… whoever knowingly resists or obstructs an officer while such officer is doing any act in an official capacity and with lawful authority if guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.”

A Class A misdemeanor is punishable by 9 months in jail, a $10,000.00 fine, or both.

What are the elements of this offense?

All crimes have elements, or parts, that need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.  Wisconsin JI-Criminal 1766 provides the elements for obstructing an officer:

  1. The defendant obstructed an officer; and
  2. The officer was doing an act in an official capacity; and
  3. The officer was acting with lawful authority; and
  4. The defendant knew that officer was an officer acting in his official capacity and with lawful authority and the defendant knew his conduct would obstruct the officer.

The instruction additionally provides important definitions:

“To obstruct an officer” means that the conduct of the defendant prevents or makes more difficult the performance of the officer’s duties.  Importantlythe refusal to answer an officer’s questions, by itself, is not obstructing an officer.

What’s the difference between obstructing and resisting an officer?

The same statute that prohibits obstructing, prohibits resisting an officer.  Certainly that could lead to confusion, but analyzing the different jury instructions helps solve the confusion.  Specifically, Wisconsin JI-Criminal 1765 discusses resisting an officer.  “Resisting” requires actual physical interference.  “Obstructing” involves non-physical interference.  And in a third set of circumstances, giving false information is covered by Wisconsin JI-Criminal 1766A.  These three crimes are similar.

Is failure to cooperate with police considered obstructing?

Can failure to cooperate with police be “obstructing” if no physical resistance is offered?  In an example, is it obstructing for a person to refuse to identify himself and answer questions during  a valid “stop and question” situation?

The Wisconsin Supreme Court recognized this question in State v. Hamilton, 120 Wis.2d 532, 356 N.W.2d 169 (1984).  The defendant in that case involved a person suspected of knowing about, or being involved in, the breaking of windows with an air-powered rifle.  Police interviewed him.  When confronted, Hamilton refused to identify himself.  He certainly refused to answer questions.  Eventually he faced obstructing an officer charges.  When the case reached the Supreme Court, they held the refusal could not constitute “obstructing,” primarily because officers could easily have identified Hamilton by asking the other person who was present.

What does obstructing really mean?

Prior to the 1955 version of the Criminal Code, the statute originally only prohibited resisting an officer.  Obstructing was added to cover conduct not included by the word “resisting” – including impeding, hindering, or frustrating an officer.  See also State v. Welch, 37 Wis. 196 (1875).  A later case, State v. Grobstrick, 200 Wis.2d 242, 249, 546 N.W.2d 187 (Ct. App. 1996) approved the instruction.  There, the court found that the defendant’s jumping out a window and then returning to hide in a closet “made more difficult the execution of a bench warrant.”

Police interrogate a man
Lying to the police constitutes obstruction of an officer. Contact a criminal defense attorney for representation today.

Finally – Contact a top Wisconsin criminal defense attorney

Our criminal defense attorneys certainly focus on providing the very best criminal defense representation in Wisconsin.  If you face criminal charges for obstructing an officer, you certainly deserve top-notch representation.

Our criminal defense attorneys have dedicated their entire careers to criminal defense.  So we’ve defended obstructing an officer cases.  We’ve defended them to the point of trial.  And we want to defend your case.  Finally – give us at call at (414) 270-0202 and let’s get started on your case.

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