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Obstructing a Peace Officer

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Obstructing a Peace Officer 2020-06-30T23:07:46+00:00

Your Guide to Obstructing a Peace Officer Charges by Criminal Lawyers in Calgary

What is Obstructing a Peace Officer?

Obstructing a peace officer is the act of interfering with a peace officer or public officer during the lawful execution of their duties. This can be done in any number of ways with any number of acts, including providing a fake name to police, hiding evidence at a crime scene, or disobeying an order.

According to statistics, obstructing a peace officer represents a very small percentage (0.13%) of reported offences in Calgary. However, the number of incidents has grown steadily over the past three years.

The relevant provisions for obstructing a peace officer in the Criminal Code of Canada are:

Obstructing a Peace Officer in Calgary

In the Criminal Code, peace officers and public officers are widely defined, and include:

  • Calgary police officers
  • RCMP
  • Canadian Forces officers
  • Customs officers
  • Mayors
  • Pilots
  • Bailiffs
  • Wardens, and more.

When addressing obstructing a peace officer, the Crown Prosecutor is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt each of the following elements:

  • You obstructed a peace or public officer;
  • The officer was engaged in the lawful execution of duty when obstructed;
  • The obstruction impacted the officer’s ability to perform their duty;
  • You knew they were an officer engaged in a lawful duty; and
  • The obstruction was wilful.

The word “obstructs” has been found to require more than just passive interference. Instead, an active action that hinders the officer engaged in their duty is usually required. For example, providing a false name to an officer would be an active action while remaining silent may be insufficient.

The word “duty” is equally wide in the case law, but must be a lawful duty, and typically involves an active investigation. For example, it would not be obstruction if an officer had no warrant to enter a property and you asked them to leave, refusing to answer questions.

Another common variation of this offence is Resisting Arrest or, if the obstruction included an assault, Assaulting a Peace Officer.

Investigation of Obstructing a Peace Officer Charges in Calgary

An investigation of an alleged obstructing a peace officer charge in Calgary is typically initiated by the peace officer alleged to have been obstructed. Because peace officers and public officers are often vested with powers authorizing arrest, a charge can flow directly from the alleged obstruction and may rely solely on the statement of the officer.

Obstruction involves an interference with an officer performing a lawful duty, therefore police typically take such matters seriously and will investigate the incident fully. This may include interviewing all witnesses, reviewing any video surveillance, seizing any evidence involved, photographing the scene, and obtaining medical records, if relevant.

After the police have gathered their evidence, they will arrest you if they believe you are the perpetrator. If you are not present at the scene, police will track you down or issue a warrant for your arrest.

After you have been charged, police will provide a package with all the evidence they collected, known as the “disclosure package,” to the Crown Prosecutor. You will have the right to access this disclosure package to see the evidence against you. Once you retain one of our lawyers, we will assist you in obtaining the disclosure package, and we will review it with you to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the Crown’s case, as well as any legal defences that may be available to you.

Bail Process and Conditions for Obstructing a Peace Officer Charges in Calgary

How do I get myself or a loved one out on bail for obstructing a peace officer charges in Calgary?

If you have been charged with obstructing a peace officer, it is not uncommon for police to release you at the scene on a release order. Police will provide you with a Promise to Appear document outlining your charges, and any required appearances you must make. This document may also include conditions that you are required to follow while on release.

However, a formal bail hearing may be required to secure your release, particularly if you have a criminal record, or if the allegations are more serious.

In order to conduct a bail hearing, you will be transferred from the district office to the Spyhill Services Centre. The bail hearing must be held within 24 hours, a period that starts from the moment of arrest or detention rather than the time when you are brought to the Centre. Although for many years the Centre was located downtown Calgary, it is now situated in the deep North West of Calgary, which makes getting home after being released far more difficult for many people. The exact address of the Centre is as follows:

Spyhill Services Centre
12500 85th Street, N.W.
Tel: 403-428-3400

Loved ones are not able to contact you while you are detained. The police will not release any information to friends or family due to privacy laws. Your lawyer is the only person allowed to contact you. Once the police have verified your lawyer’s details, they will pass on information about your whereabouts, if requested.

Because of these difficulties, while you are held in custody, it is best to appoint a competent defence lawyer as soon as possible to manage the legal processes and communicate with loved ones. After an arrest, the police must provide you with the opportunity to call a lawyer in private and, if that happens, stop questioning you.

Once you retain one of our experienced criminal defence lawyers, we will begin working to secure your release on bail. We will immediately do the following:

  1. Call in to the Spyhill Services Centre in Calgary and speak to you.
  2. Contact the Prosecutor assigned to the bail hearing to start negotiating your release.
  3. Order and secure a copy of the police information package that details the allegations against you in advance of the bail hearing. This allows the lawyer to make meaningful representations to the Court about why you should be released on bail.
  4. Conduct either an in-person or teleconference bail hearing to secure your release.

When you attend your bail hearing, the Judge will consider the following factors:

  • Is detention necessary to secure your attendance in court?
  • Is detention necessary to protect the public from a substantial risk of re-offence?
  • Is detention necessary in all the circumstances to maintain confidence in the administration of justice?

Although it is unlikely that you will be denied bail for this type of charge, tight restrictions may nevertheless be applied to your release.

Rest assured, we will work to not only secure your release but also to ensure the least restrictive set of bail conditions (including the minimum cash deposit).

In order for our lawyers to secure less stringent conditions, the Judge will need to be satisfied that you will attend court as required and that you pose no significant risk of harm to the public. This may sometimes be difficult as the Judge may be hesitant to release you due to concerns with your willingness to obey release conditions, but it is not impossible.

Our lawyers are often successful at persuading the Crown Prosecutor in charge of bail to let our clients out. If we can’t convince the Prosecutor, we can conduct a formal bail hearing and work to convince the Court. Even if you are ultimately detained, we can appeal that decision on very short notice through a bail review, which is conducted at the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta.

Where can I pay for bail for obstructing a peace officer charges in Calgary?

If you or a loved one is charged with obstructing a peace officer in Calgary and granted bail, you may be required to provide a cash deposit to secure release. The cash deposit can be paid at any bail hearing office (courthouse) in Alberta. If you live in Edmonton, you can pay bail there for someone detained in Calgary.

Bail hearing offices in Calgary are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The contact details of the bail hearing office at the Calgary Courts Centre are as follows:

Calgary Courts Centre
601 5th Street SW
Tel: 403-297-4444

You can also make a bail payment at the Calgary Remand Centre prior to 8:30 pm. The contact details for the Calgary Remand Centre are as follows:

Calgary Remand Centre
12200 85 Street NW
Tel: 403-695-2100

To pay your own bail, you can make a payment after your hearing, assuming you have sufficient funds with you to do so.

How do I change my release conditions for obstructing a peace officer charges in Calgary?

Release on bail with obstructing a peace officer charges may include restrictions that impact your day-to-day life. This could include conditions to refrain from:

  • Staying out beyond a certain time (i.e. curfew),
  • Breaking any laws,
  • Using drugs or alcohol,
  • Possessing weapons,
  • Leaving your house (i.e. house arrest),
  • Visiting certain places, and/or
  • Travelling.

The Judge may also impose some additional conditions such as:

  • Residing where approved,
  • Reporting to probation,
  • Attending counselling, and/or
  • Maintaining or seeking employment.

A variety of factors will be considered when determining your precise restrictions, including:

  • Your criminal history,
  • Your physical and mental condition,
  • The nature of the alleged obstruction,
  • The likelihood that you will flee,
  • Your history of drug/alcohol usage,
  • Whether you have stable employment,
  • Whether you have stable living arrangements, and
  • Whether you have ties to the community.

If you have already been released, at least for the short term, it is critical that you make arrangements to abide by your conditions until they can be changed. Breaching the terms of your release can result in further charges or a revocation of your bail, as well as a forfeiture of any cash paid to secure your release. It is important to take these conditions seriously.

Once the matter is in court, we can work with the Crown Prosecutor to alter your conditions. This includes either adding exceptions to some of the conditions or eliminating them altogether.

If your court date is far away and you cannot wait until then, we can arrange to have the matter dealt with sooner. Our first priority is always to stabilize your release conditions. That way, you will not feel pressured to plead guilty because of the restrictive terms of your release. Once the conditions are manageable and minimally intrusive to your daily routine, we can focus 100% of our attention on defending the case.

Penalties for Obstructing a Peace Officer Charges in Calgary

In cases of obstructing a peace officer charges, the likelihood of going to jail if convicted is relatively low. However, the risk of jail time increases dramatically where:

  • The obstruction is a significant impairment to an officer’s lawful duty;
  • The obstruction was done for the benefit of a criminal organization; or
  • You have prior convictions.

The potential penalties can range anywhere from a discharge (i.e. a finding of guilt, but no criminal conviction), to a fine and/or probation, to a period of jail time.

The Criminal Code of Canada outlines the maximum allowable punishment for obstructing a peace officer:

  • Up to two years in jail;
  • Up to three years of probation;
  • A fine of several thousand dollars; and
  • A ban from owning or possessing any weapons or firearms for up to 10 years.

The potential sentences available to you will depend on a variety of factors, including the type and degree of obstruction, your criminal history, and other applicable personal factors.

In addition to the immediate penalties resulting from a conviction for obstructing a peace officer, it can have wide-ranging negative consequences on your future. You may have trouble finding employment, especially in roles that require working with children, the elderly, or other vulnerable sectors of society. The lifelong criminal record that results from a conviction can also cause problems with immigration and travel.

Therefore, even if you intend on accepting responsibility for this type of offence, it is worthwhile to explore your options and consider all the potential penalties. Often, good representation can result in no criminal record. Furthermore, a community-based sentence may be obtained even where the Crown is seeking jail time.

Rest assured, our lawyers will work hard to defend you so that you are not saddled with the consequences that stem from an obstructing a peace officer conviction. In fact, we can canvass a range of sentencing options with the Prosecutors that will either leave you with no criminal record or impose minimal restrictions on your liberty after sentencing. To learn more about potential non-criminal resolutions, please visit our Resolutions page, or read our FAQ on resolutions and other sentencing options.

Obstructing a Peace Officer in Calgary

Defending Obstructing a Peace Officer Charges in Calgary

What are the best defences to obstructing a peace officer charges in Calgary?

In obstructing a peace officer cases, the defences that may be available to you depend on the facts of your case. In general, the best defences are:

  • Factual Innocence: This is usually the strongest defence because the facts and the evidence do not support you being there, obstructing an officer, or other basic elements of the offence. This could include:

No mental intent: A common defence available in obstructing a peace officer cases is that you did not intend to obstruct the officer. A basic example would be if you unintentionally provided false information to an investigating officer, thinking it was true.

“Mistake of Fact”: A conviction for obstructing a peace officer must rest on the fact that you knew it was a peace or public officer that you were obstructing. If the complainant was not in uniform or did not identify themselves as an officer, the requisite knowledge would be absent. For example, you could not be convicted of obstructing an officer working undercover if they did not identify themselves as such.

Identity: In some circumstances where the offence was not recorded by surveillance footage, or the footage is poor quality, you may be able to raise an identity defence. For example, authorities could have made a mistake in identifying you as the perpetrator based on the poor quality of the footage. In order to effectively raise this defence, you may need corroborative evidence, such as an alibi to where you were at the time of the offence.

  • Violation of constitutional rights: The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms sets out your rights before and after your arrest. If the police fail to abide by these rights, it could aid in your defence.
  • “Unlawful Exercise of Duty”: This defence may arise if an officer is not acting in the lawful execution of duty. If an officer is overstepping their authority or unreasonably acting beyond their scope of duty, you are not legally required to obey their commands. For example, if an officer does not advise you of the reason for making an arrest, it is an unlawful arrest, and you would not be convicted for being uncooperative.

The Crown is required to prove that you not only obstructed an officer engaged in a lawful duty, but that you intended to obstruct them. While the Crown must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the offence, you may bear some responsibility in raising certain defences at trial.

The availability and strength of any defence depends entirely on the specific facts of your case. Our lawyers have significant experience assessing the availability and strengths of various potential defences in obstructing a peace officer cases, as well as presenting any and all available defences to the Court at trial. Even if you believe that you will be found guilty, it is important that you obtain a legal opinion about defences that may be available to you.

How can I help defend obstructing a peace officer charges in Calgary?

If you have been charged with obstructing a peace officer in Calgary, the following can help your lawyer build a strong defence:

  • Provide your lawyer with a statement about what happened;
  • Collect and maintain all documents and records about the event;
  • Gather a list of witnesses that may support your version of events; and
  • Log any relevant texts, emails, phone calls or photographic evidence.

What information is relevant will depend on the facts in your case. As soon as you are released on bail, you should start to gather any information that may be of use to your lawyer. If you are uncertain what information may be relevant, you should contact one of our lawyers immediately to create a plan of action for gathering information.

If you are truly proactive about the matter, consider doing the following:

  • Secure proof of employment;
  • Secure reference letters;
  • Enroll in counselling (anger management/substance abuse/parenting);
  • Secure a record of prescriptions; and
  • Secure a record of any mental health conditions you suffer from.

These steps can be very helpful for building an effective defence (or convincing the Prosecutor to drop the charges altogether).

What can a lawyer do to help me defend against obstructing a peace officer charges in Calgary?

As we start preparing your defence by examining police actions and the evidence against you, there are certain defence strategies that can be used to aid your cause, including:

  • Assembling documents, photographs, texts, etc. that contradict the allegation and support your defence;
  • Gathering evidence from witnesses that support your version of events;
  • Identifying mistakes in the actions of the police, such as Charter breaches;
  • Uncovering administrative/systemic errors, such as “Jordan delay,” non-disclosure, lost or destroyed evidence, etc.; and
  • Finding weaknesses or “holes” in the Crown’s case that may make it difficult or impossible for them to establish the elements of the offence.

Further Reading

Below are some notable cases dealing with various aspects of obstruction charges:

In R v Johnson, (1985) 47 C.C.C. (3d) 380, the accused was pulled over for speeding and provided the officer with a false name. In convicting the accused, the Court clarified there is a difference between remaining silent and deliberately lying to an officer when legally detained.

In Knowlton v R, [1974] SCR 43, the accused was arrested after pushing through a police line established for security reasons during USSR Premier Kosygin’s visit to Edmonton. This act of disobeying the security line lawfully established by the police obstructed their ability to control the crowd. The accused was convicted of obstructing an officer.

In R v Hnatiuk, [1937] 1 W.W.R. 666, the accused was suspected of running an illegal distillery and a search warrant was granted to search his home. When the police arrived, the accused threw a bottle of unknown liquid to the floor, breaking it and thwarting the police’s ability to seize evidence. He was convicted of obstruction for hindering the officers in the course of their duty.

In R v Prince, (1981) 61 C.C.C. (2d) 73 (MNPC), the accused was arrested and charged with obstruction after interfering in the arrest of his brother. The court acquitted, stating that because the brother’s arrest was warrantless and unjustified, there was no underlying lawful duty being obstructed.

What Next?

Most of the information above relates to simple obstructing a peace officer cases, which can still be complex and fact-specific. Charges that involve a unique type of officer, an omission to act under section 129(b), or obstructing a land or goods seizure under section 129(c) can involve further complexities.

We have tried our best to provide a general outline of what you can expect if you find yourself in this situation. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

To learn more about how we can help, please contact our team of Obstructing a Peace Officer Lawyers to conduct a thorough review of your situation so that we can tailor a precise strategy that targets your successful defence.

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