It seems that every time you turn on the news, there is a story of another police shooting. And while jurisdictions are now requiring that police officers wear body cameras in the performance of their duties, they are not required everywhere. As a result, many in the general public have taken to using their phones to record police activity. This is legal to do as long as it does not constitute obstructing an officer in Oklahoma City. Understanding where the boundaries are can be difficult.
What is Obstructing an Officer in Oklahoma City?
In Oklahoma, it is unlawful to willfully delay or obstruct a public officer in the performance of his or her duties. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 540
Obstructing an officer in Oklahoma is a misdemeanor crime. It is punishable by up to a year in jail, fines, or both.
The statute goes on to say that the law does not preclude a person from recording the activity of law enforcement in a public area, as long as the recording activity does not delay or obstruct the law enforcement agent in his or her duties.
There is a First Amendment right to film or record police activity that is taking place in public.
Elements of Obstructing an Officer in Oklahoma
The prosecution must prove every element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. If any element is left unproven, then there can be no conviction on that charge.
Here are the elements of obstructing an officer in Oklahoma City:
- delayed or obstructed;
- an officer
- known by the defendant to be an officer
- in the discharge of any duty of his or her duties.
It is important to note that a person does not have to use physical force to be guilty of obstructing an officer in the performance of his or her official duties.
How to Protect Yourself from an Obstruction Charge
If it is unclear that the person involved is an officer, you could have a viable defense. This could happen if the officer is not wearing a uniform or is driving an unmarked car and if the officer does not show a badge identifying himself or herself as an officer.
Secondly, the obstruction or delay must be willful and intentional. If you accidentally get in the way of an officer performing his or her duties, the obstruction may not meet this element.
If you are filming, the more distance between you and the police officer you are filming, the better. Problems occur with close proximity.
The question of how much distance is enough depends on the circumstances involved. Being in a car and filming a traffic stop in front of you is probably fine. Getting out of your car and following the officer to the other car is probably not fine.
In general, if you have the legal right to be in that public area, you have the right to film. However, if the police order you to leave, you must comply. At that point, you no longer have the legal right to be in that area.
Sometimes, police demand that you stop recording. Continuing to record as long as you have the right to be in the area is probably not obstruction unless you do something else to interfere or delay the police.
If the area is private land, you must comply with a landowner’s wishes.
If you have been charged with obstructing an officer in Oklahoma City, get help today.
Free Consultation: Oklahoma City Criminal Defense Attorney
Our lawyer is well positioned to advise you accordingly, as he has the necessary training and experience. He has the wit and tenacity to match the skill of the Oklahoma City prosecutors.
For a free consultation with an Oklahoma criminal defense attorney, call Wirth Law Office – Oklahoma City at 405-888-5400.
You can also submit an email question from the top right corner of this page. We will respond to all questions as soon as possible.