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Virginia obstruction of justice cases- Fairfax criminal lawyer’s view

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Virginia obstruction of justice convictions cannot be obtained for mere flight

Virginia obstruction of justice convictions cannot be obtained for mere flight from police. As a Fairfax criminal lawyer, I know that the foregoing scenario changes if the criminal defendant pushes on a police officer to get away from him or her. Lucas v. Commonwealth of Virginia, ___Va. App. ___ (August 9, 2022). Police made a traffic stop on a car in which Lucas was a passenger. When a positive drug dog alert led to the finding of currency in which suspected illegal drugs were wrapped, law enforcement proceeded to handcuff the driver and appellant Lucas. When police instructed Lucas to put his hands behind his back, Lucas instead pushed the cop, and ran away, until being tackled and arrested by the police. During the tackling, a handgun allegedly flew from Lucas’s person, which possession was not lawful due to his status as a convicted felon. Lucas. Had Lucase merely run away from the police, such behavior would not have been sufficient to have convicted him for obstruction of justice. His act of pushing the police officer before running away changed this case to allow an obstruction of justice conviction.

What constitutes Virginia obstruction of justice when a criminal suspect does not comply with police orders?

The following part of the Virginia obstruction of justice statute applies when the prosecution alleges not complying with law enforcement orders: ” If any person without just cause knowingly obstructs… any law-enforcement officer… or refuses without just cause to cease such obstruction when requested to do so by such… law-enforcement officer, …, he is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.” Va. Code § 18.2-460(A). “To constitute an obstruction of an officer in the performance of his duty: ‘there must be acts clearly indicating an intention on the part of the accused to prevent the officer from performing his duty, as to “obstruct” ordinarily implies opposition or resistance by direct action . . . . It means to obstruct the officer himself not merely to oppose or impede the process with which the officer is armed.’ Jordan v. Commonwealth, 273 Va. 639, 648 (2007) (quoting Jones v. Commonwealth, 141 Va. 471, 475 (1925).” Lucas. A “conviction for obstruction of justice cannot be sustained merely on evidence that ‘a person fail[ed] to cooperate fully with an officer or when the person’s conduct merely render[ed] the officer’s task more difficult but [did] not impede
or prevent the officer from performing that task.’ Ruckman v. Commonwealth, 28 Va. App. 428, 429 (1998).” Lucas. 

Is refusal to submit to a blood alcohol test obstruction of justice?

Based on the above discussion of the Virginia obstruction of justice statute, the law enforcement officers whom I have seen charging criminal defendants with obstruction of justice for declining blood alcohol tests in Virginia DUI cases are without legal basis for bringing such criminal charges. Lucas. However, appellate court opinions get disregarded too many times by law enforcement, making Virginia criminal defense lawyers needing to be ready to fight their prosecutions tooth an dnail.

What should I do if charged with a Virginia crime?

If you are charged with committing Virginia obstruction of justice or other crime, it is ideal to timely obtain a qualified lawyer. Fairfax criminal lawyer Jonathan Katz spends nearly 100% of his law practice defending those accused of violating the Virginia DUI, felony and misdemeanor laws. Call 703=383-1100 for your free initial in-person confidential consultation with Jon Katz about your court-pending case.