Lying to Police is not Obstruction of Legal Process in Minnesota
Obstruction of legal process in Minnesota is a very serious charge, but it also can be overcharged by cops that are inpatient or simply out to get a defendant. One way in which we have seen it overcharged is when a defendant is not cooperating or lying to police during the course of an investigation. Often, the officer threaten the defendant with obstruction if he or she continues to lie or not answer the questions being posed. So the question becomes – can a person be charged with obstructing legal process for lying to police?
The short answer: No. Here’s why.
For a defendant’s conduct to fall under prohibition against “obstruction of legal process,” it has to rise to the level of physical obstruction or be words, such as fighting words, that had effect of physically obstructing or interfering with the officer conducting investigation. If the alleged misconduct is simply spoken word, then those words must be fighting words or otherwise have the effect of physically obstructing or interfering with the officer. Proving this is awfully challenging, to say the least.
An example can help show what does not rise to the level of obstruction of legal process – or at least shouldn’t if the officer/prosecutor correctly assesses this situation. In the leading case on this issue, the defendant lied about multiple facts when questioned by police. He lied when he stated that he did not know the driver of the truck, that he did not leave the bar with anyone else, and that a suspect was babysitting. In so lying, the police were unable to apprehend the suspects and obtain needed blood-alcohol evidence. Still, the lies only lengthened the time in which it took the police to apprehend the suspects. The court found that they did not physically prevent or obstruct the police from trying to obtain the evidence. While lying may constitute ‘Not Always Minnesota Nice,’ it’s also not a crime.
Obstruction of legal process in Minnesota requires physical obstruction or words that rise to the level of actually physically obstructing – somehow. If you believe you’re wrongfully charged with obstructing legal process, it is imperative to get a knowledgeable obstruction of legal process attorney to fight for you.