OBSTRUCTING A PEACE OFFICER
Did you know that simply providing a fake name or a false address to a police officer in Calgary is a criminal offence that can have long-lasting implications?
That is just one way of “obstructing” a peace officer in performing his or her duties – there are several others referred to below.
Whatever the specific reason, if you are charged with obstructing a peace officer, you need to understand the nature of the offence, its consequences and how you might be able to defend yourself against the charge.
With the assistance of Cory Wilson and his team, we can ensure that a silly mistake doesn’t result in a far-reaching loss of rights and freedoms.
What is a peace officer and what constitutes obstructing one?
Peace officers are defined in the Criminal Code as the following:
- Calgary police officers
- Canadian Forces officers
- Customs officers
This is not an exhaustive list but provides a good idea of who is classified as a peace officer in Canada.
“Obstructing” an individual who holds one of these positions means to interfere with them, resist them or even omit to assist them during the lawful execution of their duties. Generally, however, it requires a definite active action rather than simply remaining passive and silent.
The five elements that must be proven in such cases are the following:
- The defendant obstructed a peace or public officer
- The officer was lawfully carrying out their duty when obstructed
- The defendant’s actions affected the officer’s ability to perform their duty
- The defendant was aware that the individual was a peace officer
- The defendant’s actions were intentional
Some common examples of obstructing a peace officer include:
- Directly disobeying an order from a peace officer
- Providing a fake name to police
- Lying to or misleading a policeman who questions you
- Running away from a peace officer
- Hiding evidence at a crime scene
Remaining silent would not usually be grounds for a charge of obstructing a peace officer but you could still be charged with resisting arrest if other circumstances apply.
What are the penalties for obstruction of a peace officer?
The obstruction of a peace officer may not sound like a particularly big deal. However, it can lead to serious penalties as it can be prosecuted as an indictable offence with up to two years in prison.
In general, however, the case will proceed as a summary offence and the likelihood of jail time is very low, especially if it is your only offence and you are supported by a criminal defence lawyer like Cory Wilson.
If aggravating factors are present, the chances of a more serious punishment increase. Such factors include:
- If the impairment to the officer was significant or had major consequences
- If a criminal organization was involved in the act
- If the defendant has a criminal record with prior convictions
In standard cases and with strong legal representation, the judge may agree to a discharge (i.e., a guilty verdict but no criminal conviction) or a fine and/or probation (up to three years) rather than jail time.
Another consequence of a guilty verdict may be a ban from owning or possessing weapons or firearms for up to 10 years.
Other long-term consequences include potential difficulties in finding employment and immigration issues for non-Canadian citizens. Travel to the U.S. may also be affected.
It is never advisable to simply accept a charge of obstructing a peace officer without speaking to a criminal defence lawyer first.
What are the defences for obstructing a peace officer?
Several viable defences may be available if you are charged with obstructing a peace officer.
While the best defence for your case will only become evident after Cory Wilson has examined the facts and the evidence, some of the most commonly used defences are:
- Violation of constitutional rights: you have certain rights before and after an arrest according to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If the police do not follow these to the letter, their actions could be used in your defence.
- Unlawful exercise of duty: if an officer oversteps his or her authority or acts beyond the scope of their duty, you do not have to obey their commands. This means you cannot be convicted of obstructing them. A good example might be if you are not informed of the reason for your arrest.
- Factual innocence: if Cory Wilson believes the facts and the evidence do not support you being present at the time of the alleged offence, knowing the person was a peace officer, and/or obstructing the officer in his or her duties, it may be used as a defence. Good examples are where the alleged victim was not wearing a uniform or where there is no (or poor quality) video surveillance footage specifically identifying the perpetrator.
- No intent: unless the prosecution can prove that you intended to instruct a peace officer, a conviction may not be possible. For instance, unintentionally providing a false address to a peace officer.
Call Us To Arrange A Confidential Consultation
To speak with Cory Wilson or arrange a free, no-obligation consultation with Wilson Criminal Defence, call 403-978-6052 or email us here.
Obstructing a Peace Officer FAQ
Cory Wilson is a criminal defence lawyer based in Calgary. If you have been charged with a criminal offence or are a suspect in a criminal investigation, call today for a free, no-obligation consultation.