What is “Interference with the Lawful Duties of a Police Officer” in Massachusetts?
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently evaluated a case in Lowell where a man was convicted of interfering with the lawful duties of a police officer. The man, Mark Adams, was convicted and appealed. He won. The case was overturned and the District Court was ordered to enter a not guilty verdict on his behalf.
Mr. Adams had a license to carry firearms in Massachusetts. When his license was suspended, the police requested his firearms. He refused, was tackled, and the police entered anyway. He was arrested and charged with, among other things, interfering with the lawful duties of a police officer. Incidentally, Mr. Adams filed a motion to suppress the illegal search of his home; the judge agreed that the police had no right to enter his home without a warrant.
When Mr. Adams appealed his conviction, he argued that interfering with the lawful duties of a police officer was not a crime at all. He pointed out that the charge did not exist in any statute. That said, the Supreme Judicial Court disagreed and ruled that it was nonetheless a valid “common law” crime that existed since at least the 1600’s in England.
After clarifying that interfering with the lawful duties of a police officer is still a crime, the Supreme Judicial Court went on to note the elements required for a conviction. The prosecution is required to prove four elements beyond a reasonable doubt: First, that the officer was engaged in the lawful performance of a duty. Second, that the defendant physically performed an act that obstructed or hindered a police officer in the lawful performance of that duty. The act may include a “threat of violence against” the officer, which reasonably would have the effect of obstructing or hindering the officer in the performance of that duty. Third, that defendant was aware that the police officer was engaged in the performance of his or her duties. Fourth, that the defendant intended to obstruct or hinder the officer in the performance of that duty. If the prosecution fails to prove even one of those elements beyond a reasonable doubt, then the jury must acquit the defendant.
In the case of Mark Adams, the Supreme Judicial Court found that the jury could not have found him guilty of interfering with the lawful duties of a police officer.
If you are facing similar charges, we can help. Call us at 781-797-0555 for a free phone consultation today. Our criminal defense attorneys have experience winning some of the most difficult cases in Massachusetts.