Obstruction of Justice
Even though you know you have the Right to Remain Silent, you apparently lack the capacity and have decided to argue with the police officer about why he stopped you, loudly.
You’re so loud that you are interrupting, disrupting, impeding, or otherwise interfering with his official duties. Sounds like you’re going to jail, right? Wrong; and here’s why.
Interference with Public Duties
If you interrupt, disrupt, impede, or otherwise interfere with an official performing in their official capacity, then you may commit the offense of “Interference with Public Duties.”
However, not every official is included in this offense, but there is a list of officials in the penal code, which includes: (not an all inclusive list)
Peace officers performing a duty or exercising authority imposed or granted by law;
Emergency medical services personnel who transport the injured or ill (paramedics);
Fire fighters who are fighting fires or are investigating the cause of a fire;
Police dogs if the person knows it is being used for law enforcement purposes; an
Animal control officer while performing their duty, and
—See Tex. Pen. Code § 38.15(a)
Even though you may commit an offense, the law sometimes provides for defenses to prosecution. A sort of “it’s only illegal if you get prosecuted” provision.
One such defense to this interference listed above is if the interference is by speech only. Does that sounds a little like a First Amendment, freedom of speech, issue? Well you’re absolutely right. Your speech is protected, even if it interferes with public duties.
For example, Courts have upheld this defense when a citizen argued with police over the validity of a search warrant.
—See State v. Carney
The other defense is if the interference was intended to warn a motorist of the presence of a peace officer that is enforcing Title 7 of the Transportation Code. The primary statutes contained in there that you’ll care about is the part about speeding. (i.e., speed traps)
That’s right, if your conduct is intended to warn a motorist about a speed trap ahead, then you have a valid defense to a charge for Interference with Public Duties.
—See Tex. Pen. Code § 38.15(c)
Could vs. Should
Just because you could do something, doesn’t always mean that you should do something.
It is always best to maintain your composure and act respectful because they are given wide discretion in their duties. Even if those charges may not stick, that doesn’t mean that an officer who just got his feelings hurt won’t arrest you just to make you suffer a little bit.
However, never be afraid to stand up for your rights even if it comes at a cost.
–Authored by Matthew L. Harris, Esq.,
Matthew Harris Law, PLLC – Criminal Law Division
1001 Main Street, Suite 200, Lubbock, Texas, 79401-3309
Tel: (806) 702-4852 | Fax: (800) 985-9479