Franklin County Criminal Law Casebook
Reproduced with permission from
David L. Strait and the Franklin County Public Defender Office
Last updated 3/3/2015
OBSTRUCTING JUSTICE AND OBSTRUCTING OFFICIAL BUSINESS
Falsification; Tampering with
R.C. 2921.31 -- Obstructing official business.
R.C. 2921.32 -- Obstructing justice.
R.C. 2917.13 -- Misconduct at an emergency.
R.C. 4931.49(D) -- "No person shall use the
telephone number of the 9-1-1 system to report an emergency if
he knows that no
State v. Straley, 139 Ohio St.3d 339,
2014-Ohio-2139, 11 N.E.3d 1175-- A conviction for tampering with evidence
pursuant to R.C.
2921.12(A)(1) requires proof that the defendant intended to impair the value
or availability of evidence that related to an existing or likely official
investigation or proceeding.
State v. Crowell, 189 Ohio App. 3d
2010-Ohio-4917 – Police responded to defendant’s home. Wife was outside
crying and was unable to consent to officers’ request to enter the home to check
on a child. Defendant was seen through an open door, wrapped in a sheet or
towel. State failed to prove an overt act on his part constituting the offense
of obstructing official business. His refusal to come outside as ordered by the
officers was not an affirmative act. If he closed the door as claimed, that was
no more than a continued refusal to cooperate. If his statements to officers
were in fact false, they did not hamper or impede the investigation.
State v. Grice,
180 Ohio App. 3d 700,
2009-Ohio-372 – Conviction for obstructing official business requires an
affirmative act. Merely refusing to provide identification is not an affirmative
act. Nor did defendant‘s statement he did not hear a gunshot hamper or impede
police investigation of a reported shot in any measurable way.
Wellman, 173 Ohio App. 3d 494,
2007-Ohio-2953 – Defendant pestered officers conducing an
after hours raid on a club who were trying to find whoever was
in charge in order to issue a citation. In the view of the court
this conduct went beyond free speech, and for purposes of
sufficiency review met the elements of the statute.
Certain, 180 Ohio App. 3d 457,
2009-Ohio-148 – Fleeing from an officer attempting to make
an apparently valid Terry stop may be the basis for an
obstructing official business charge. Flight is an affirmative
act, distinguishable from a mere refusal to do as directed.
Court abrogates its contrary holding in State v. Gillenwater (April 2, 1998), Highland App. No
State v. Cooper, 151 Ohio App. 3d 790,
2003-Ohio-1032 -- Applying the strict scrutiny standard, no First Amendment
violation found in application of the obstructing official business statute to
an adult bookstore clerk who loudly demanded badge numbers of officers there to
inspect booths in the back of the store. However, conviction was not supported
by the evidence. The officers were not impeded in their duties by the warning
since the only customer in the back of the store who might have been warned was
in fact arrested for indecent conduct. Remanded for consideration whether
evidence supports conviction for attempt.
State v. Puterbaugh (2001), 142 Ohio App.
3d 185 -- Defendant told officer that the person sought on a warrant was not in
her house, but allowed search which resulted in that person's arrest. While the
false information element of obstructing official business was established, the
"hampers or impedes a public official in the performance of his lawful duties"
element was not. At p. 191: "Certainly there is a level on hinderance that is
simply too casual, remote, or indirect to be punishable under the statute.
Although entitled to full respect of the badge and uniform in the execution of
his or her duty, a police officer is expected to tolerate a certain level of
uncooperativeness, especially in a free society in which the citizenry is not
obliged to be either blindly or silently obeisant to law enforcement.
Interference with the police by citizens must, therefore, be necessarily viewed
as a continuum along which, at a certain point, the line is crossed." Also
see State v. Ivery, Franklin App. No. 06AP-32,
Akron v. Callaway, 162 Ohio App. 3d
2005-Ohio-4095 -- (1) Officer sent to check on condition of the occupant of
a house was denied entrance by the occupant's son. Obstructing official business
conviction was not supported by the evidence as son acted within his privilege.
Though he did not live at the house, he was caretaker for those who did. Officer
did not have sufficient information to establish an immediate need to save a
live or to avoid serious injury. ¶1-20 are identical to Akron v. Callaway,
160 Ohio App. 3d 229,
2005-Ohio-1471, ¶1-20. (2) At its discretion the court
addresses the constitutionality of Akron's resisting arrest ordinance, finding
it is inconsistent in application and in conflict with
R.C. 2921.33. Ordinance
proscribed resisting both legal and illegal arrests.
State v. Echols (2001), 141 Ohio App. 3d
556 -- Trucker upset at treatment by police during stop was unsuccessful in
efforts to call supervisors, so he dialled 911. Since he hung up before the call
was answered he did not "report an emergency" as required for violation of
State v. Link, 155 Ohio App. 3d 585,
2003-Ohio-6798 -- Defendant was charged with improper use of the 911 emergency
system after calling and stating, "We need a new sheriff." Case was dismissed
following a pretrial hearing involving the testimony of three witnesses. Though
the Criminal Rules do not provided for what in effect is summary judgment,
neither party made that claim, so will address propriety of dismissal on its
merits. Affirmed as the testimony supported the trial court's conclusion the
defendant could not be shown to have violated the statute.
State v. Barron (2001), 141 Ohio App. 3d
600 -- Homeowner called 911 to complain about an officer on his property
examining vehicles. R.C. 4931.49(D) does not qualify emergency to mean bona fide
emergency. Officer's belief there was a violation was mistaken. Arrest was
unlawful, therefore resisting conviction is reversed.
Middletown v. Hollon, 156 Ohio App. 3d
2004-Ohio-1502 -- Defendant refused to produce a driver's license at the
request of an officer responding to an animals running at large complaint.
Obstructing official business conviction was not supported by the evidence as
this was not the sort of affirmative action contemplated by the ordinance.
Resisting conviction stands, as there may have been probable cause, and there
was a proper basis for arrest on the animal charges, since the defendant did not
furnish adequate ID forcing issuance of a summons.
State v. Hasley, Mahoning App. No. 03
2004-Ohio-7065 -- Fleeing on foot after exiting car and being ordered to
stop was enough to sustain obstructing official business conviction. Slow
response to officer's command to lie down did not amount to resisting.
Kates, 169 Ohio App. 3d 766,
2006-Ohio-6779 -- (1) Walking away from an officer who is
attempting to make an investigative detention in accordance with
Terry v. Ohio may form the basis for
an obstructing official business conviction. (2) Any error in
late amendment of the complaint regarding the specific conduct
constituting the offense is waived when the defendant seeks
neither discharge of the jury nor a continuance.
State v. Underwood, 132 Ohio Misc. 2d
2005-Ohio-2996 -- Shoplifters fled after being ordered to stop by uniformed
officer working special duty. Trial court finds the defendant guilty of
obstructing official business.
State v. Richards, Darke App. No. 1557,
2002-Ohio-2162 -- Officer sent to the scene of a teenage party was not impeded
in the performance of her lawful duties. On arrival she was told that the
defendant had refused to leave. She took his license and told him to stay while
she investigated further. After talking to those inside she had probable cause
to charge him with contributing to the delinquency of a minor by supplying
liquor, but not for trespass. Meanwhile he had left and later fled when ordered
to stop. Obstructing official business conviction reversed. Since officer did
not observe conduct personally, she had to obtain a warrant or summons in lieu
of a warrant, and fleeing did not impede her in doing so.
State v. Christman, Montgomery App. No.
2002-Ohio-2915 -- Officer followed a car without using lights or
siren, then, with another officer, followed a police dog to the woods behind a
house. Dog attacked suspect, who resisted. Officers never identified themselves
as such, or informed the suspect he was under arrest. 6'6", 265 pound officer
manhandled suspect. Obstructing official business and resisting arrest
convictions were not supported by the evidence.
Columbus v. Doyle, 149 Ohio App. 3d 164,
2002-Ohio-4490 -- The Columbus ordinance proscribing disruption of a lawful
meeting is not unconstitutionally vague, nor does it violate the First and
Fourteenth Amendments. Also see State v. Brand
(1981), 2 Ohio App. 3d 460.
State v. Roten, 149 Ohio App. 3d 182,
2002-Ohio-4488 -- Sham legal process conviction affirmed for a follower of the
common law movement.
State v. Baker, 157 Ohio App. 3d 87,
2004-Ohio-2207 -- Ordinance proscribing verbal abuse of a police officer
survives overbreadth attack by being construed to be limited to fighting words.
While it is presumptively invalid for being based on the content of speech, the
basis for the content discrimination consists entirely of the very reason the
entire class of speech is proscribable and the nature of the content
discrimination is such that there is no realistic possibility that official
suppression of ideas is afoot.
State v. Wolf, Hamilton App. No.
2004-Ohio-5053 -- Demonstrator blocked traffic on a downtown street,
and refused to move out of the way at an officer's request. Evidence would have
supported a conviction for obstructing official business, but court found her
guilty of disorderly conduct. Disorderly held not to be a lesser-included
State v. Lazzaro (1996), 76 Ohio St. 3d
261 -- Syllabus: "The making of an unsworn false oral statement to a public
official with the purpose to mislead, hamper, or impede the investigation of a
crime is punishable conduct within the meaning of
R.C. 2921.12(A)(3) and
2921.31(A). (Columbus v. Fisher , 53 Ohio St. 2d 25...and
v. Rogers , 60 Ohio St. 2d 162...overruled.)"
State v. Wilson (1999), 101 Ohio Misc. 2d
44 -- Police spotted and captured fourth individual who fled from stopped car.
Consequently, they were not hampered by defendant's statements, even if false,
that she either did not know there was a fourth person in the car, or did not
know who that person was.
State v. Smith (1996), 108 Ohio App. 3d
662 -- For purposes of the obstructing official business statute, true oral
statements spoken boisterously do not qualify as the sort of act prohibited by
he statute. Defendant's persistent loud speech angered officer responding to a
disturbance call. Compare N. Ridgeville v. Reichbaum (1996), 112 Ohio
App. 3d 79 where speech was combined with additional acts.
Hamilton v. Hamm (1986), 33 Ohio App. 3d
175 -- Headnotes: "(1) The refusal to pay a traffic offense fine or to sign an
agreement to pay the fine is not the obstructing of official business. (2) A
person cannot be guilty of obstructing official business by doing nothing. (3) A
person convicted of a traffic offense has no duty to sign an agreement to pay
the fine imposed by the court." Also see Garfield Heights v. Simpson
(1992), 82 Ohio App. 3d 286, 291.
State v. Stayton (1998), 126 Ohio App. 3d
158 -- Defendant fed expired parking meters ahead of officer writing tickets.
Obstructing official business conviction upheld. See dissent, finding officer's
work was not hampered, since he could still write tickets, and characterizing
the defendant's offense as "aggravated foolishness."
State v. Robinson (1995), 103 Ohio App. 3d
490 -- When apartment door was opened, police smelled burning marijuana. While
officers were in the process of forcing their way in, defendant called to
another occupant to "get rid of the shit." Since the forced entry was not
lawful, officers were not acting "in the performance of their lawful duties."
Thus, there was not probable cause to arrest defendant for obstructing official
business. Court finds search of premises not justified as incident to arrest.
Cleveland v. Corrai (1990), 70 Ohio App.
3d 679 -- During execution of a search warrant at an adult bookstore, clerks
made misleading statements and were generally not helpful. Held not to
constitute obstructing official business as warrant allowed officers to achieve
whatever they needed to accomplish and clerks were under no obligation to
State v. Stephens (1978), 57 Ohio App. 2d
229 -- Obstructing official business not proven where defendant misrepresented
whereabouts of traffic offender officers had warrants for, but officers
proceeded to enter her house (probably illegally without a search warrant for
the house) and make the arrest. At p. 230: "Whatever appellant said in no way
interrupted the officers' progress towards their objective."
Columbus v. Michel (1978), 55 Ohio App. 2d
46 -- Defendant's failure to open the door to his apartment to police officers
who beat on it for ten minutes before forcing entry was not obstructing official
business. Statute requires an act and does not reach failures to act.
State v. McCrone (1989), 63 Ohio App. 3d
831 -- Obstructing official business conviction reversed where defendant refused
to produce a drivers' license as identification upon demand of officer. Compare
Waynesville v. Combs
(1990), 66 Ohio App. 3d 292 where it seems to have been accepted that the driver
of a car stopped for a traffic offense could be charged with obstructing
official business after she refused to produce her license.
Warensville Heights v. Wason (1976), 50
Ohio App. 2d 21 -- Flashing headlights to warn oncoming motorists of radar speed
trap is not proven to have obstructed an officer in the course of his duties
where there has been no proof that the warned vehicles were actually speeding.
State v. Jellife (1982), 5 Ohio Misc. 2d
20 -- Defendant told another person that an undercover cop at a rock concert was
a cop. Headnote: "Exposing the identity to others of an undercover police
officer in the performance of his lawful duties, where such exposure does not
prevent the arrest of any persons who were then violating the law, is not a
violation of R.C. 2921.31(A), obstructing official business."
Columbus v. Nichols (1986), 29 Ohio App.
3d 281 -- Conviction upheld where an intoxicated nurse interfered with efforts
of emergency squadsmen. Paramedics found to be "public officials" within the
meaning of the obstructing official business ordinance. Also see State v.
Anderson (1976), 46 Ohio St. 2d 219 (Interference in arrest of friend,
albeit arrest was of dubious legality.).
Sandusky v. DeGidio (1988), 51 Ohio App.
3d 202 -- Obstructing official business conviction upheld where the defendant
rubbed a chalk mark from his tire in order to frustrate enforcement of two hour
parking limitation. (Case wrongly decided as vehicle was not parked in violation
and the mark was apparently removed in the presence of the officer who could not
have been deterred in the course of his duties. See dissent.)
State v. West (1988), 52 Ohio App. 3d 110
-- Amendment of a obstructing official business complaint to disorderly conduct,
over the defendant's objection changed the nature and identity of the offense.
State v. Wolf (1996), 111 Ohio App. 3d 774
-- Disturbing a lawful meeting and obstructing official business convictions
upheld where defendant, protesting procedure at a county board of health
meeting, took a seat at the board meeting table, refused to leave and read a
State v. Ternes (1998), 92 Ohio Misc. 2d
76 -- Telling an officer he was out of his jurisdiction, driving at 20 mph, and
failing to immediately stop when beacon was activated did not constitute
obstructing official business. Cop gave 67-year old who had had recent heart
surgery a hard time.
State v. Muldrow (1983), 10 Ohio Misc. 2d
11 -- Refusal to be fingerprinted as a part of routine identification process
while in custody is not a violation of the obstructing official business
State v. Pembaur (1984), 9 Ohio St. 3d 136
-- Syllabus: "Absent bad faith on the part of a law enforcement officer, an
occupant of business premises cannot obstruct the officer in the discharge of
his duty, whether or not the officer's actions are lawful under the
circumstances. (Columbus v. Fraley, 41 Ohio St. 2d 173, followed.)"
State v. Collins (1993), 88 Ohio App. 3d
291 -- Refusal to provide name to building and zoning inspector did not amount
to obstructing official business, but bumping him with a truck did.
State v. Bronaugh (1980), 69 Ohio App. 2d
24 -- Headnote: "The crime of obstructing justice...cannot be committed without
the commission of an underlying crime by another." Compare State v. Mootispaw
(1985), 23 Ohio App. 3d 142 where obstructing conviction was upheld, though
person who had committed the underlying crime had been acquitted.
State v. Claybrook (1978), 57 Ohio App. 2d
131 -- Overt acts to prevent the detection of a person sought by the police,
coupled with false, unsworn, statements may constitute a violation of the
obstructing justice statute.
Cincinnati v. Smith (1986), 31 Ohio App.
3d 158 -- Headnote 1: "Where the police see the person they are seeking actually
enter the defendant's apartment, but the record fails to establish that the
defendant knew of the suspect's entry or presence in her apartment, a conviction
on such evidence of obstructing justice is against the manifest weight of the
State v. Logan (1991), 77 Ohio App. 3d 333
-- Obstructing justice not established where officers were attempting to execute
an arrest warrant and defendant told them subject was not home and that they
would have to obtain a search warrant in order to enter the house. Also see State v. Howard (1991), 75 Ohio App. 3d 760;
Payton v. New York
(1980), 445 U.S. 573.
State v. Connor (1992), 81 Ohio App. 3d
829 -- Defendant may be convicted of felony obstructing justice for harboring or
aiding wanted felon, even though the wanted suspect ultimately is only convicted
of a misdemeanor.
State v. Weeks (1987), 37 Ohio App. 3d 65
-- Headnote: "Where the defendant harbors or conceals a juvenile delinquent, an
indictment for obstructing justice,
R.C. 2921.32, fails to state an offense,
since a juvenile is incapable of committing a 'crime,' as opposed to a
State v. Pitts (1986), 31 Ohio Misc. 2d 10
-- Headnote 1: "To be found guilty of a violation of
R.C. 2921.32(A)(1), the
defendant must have acted with purpose to hinder the discovery of that person.
It therefore follows that defendant must know of the crime, the location of the
suspect, and the police officer's purpose."
State v. Gordon (1983), 9 Ohio App. 3d 184
-- Obstructing official business is a lesser included offense of obstructing
State v. Wagar (1993), 91 Ohio App. 3d 233
-- Misconduct at an emergency conviction upheld where defendant attempted to
move his crashed ultralight aircraft, contrary to the wishes of the Highway
Patrol officer who was investigating the crash.
Dayton v. Esrati (1997), 125 Ohio App. 3d
60 -- Disrupting a lawful meeting and other charges were properly dismissed
where city could not show its actions were not directed at the communicative
nature of the defendant's conduct. Defendant quietly donned a ninja mask during
city council meeting to protest proposal to reduce public participation.
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