Have you been arrested and charged with the crime of interference with public duties? Some people refer to this crime as interference with police charges. Has a police officer or detective wrongfully claimed that you interfered with public duties during an arrest or investigation? Generally speaking, it is a misdemeanor criminal offense to interfere with a police officer if they are performing their public duties.
However, what if you did nothing wrong? What if you were not doing anything to the police officer other than making him uncomfortable? One of the best examples of this is when a police officer becomes angry at someone recording an arrest. There have been many instances where someone sees a friend being arrested and treated aggressively by a police officer and a friend will pull out their cell phone and start recording the encounter. The police officer sees the friend recording the incident and begins to threaten them by claiming they are interfering with the officer’s public duties. Is this true?
This is precisely why we need to take the time to examine what Texas criminal law defines as the illegal act of interference with public duties. It is critical that you do not allow an overzealous police officer to ruin your clean criminal record and put you at risk for losing your job and good name.
You need an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney to fight to have your interference with public duties charge dismissed and expunged from your criminal record. The Hampton Law Firm has extensive experience in defending citizens of Fort Worth and the surrounding cities in Tarrant County and Dallas County, Texas from criminal prosecution for crimes they did not commit. Call our office now to speak to Jeff Hampton for a free consultation!
What Is Interference With Public Duties?
If you have been arrested and charged with Interference with Public Duties, it is important to understand what the Tarrant County prosecutor will be required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt in order to sustain a conviction against you.
Under Texas Penal Code, Section 38.15, the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office will be required to prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
A person commits the offense of Interference with Public Duties if the person with criminal negligence interrupts, disrupts, impedes, or otherwise interferes with:
- a peace officer while the peace officer is performing a duty or exercising authority imposed or granted by law;
- a person who is employed to provide emergency medical services including the transportation of ill or injured persons while the person is performing that duty;
- a fire fighter, while the fire fighter is fighting a fire or investigating the cause of a fire;
- an animal under the supervision of a peace officer, corrections officer, or jailer, if the person knows the animal is being used for law enforcement, corrections, prison or jail security, or investigative purposes;
- the transmission of a communication over a citizen’s band radio channel, the purpose of which communication is to inform or inquire about an emergency;
- an officer with responsibility for animal control in a county or municipality, while the officer is performing a duty or exercising authority imposed or granted under Chapter 821 or 822, Health and Safety Code; or
- a person who: has responsibility for assessing, enacting, or enforcing public health, environmental, radiation, or safety measures for the state or a county or municipality; is investigating a particular site as part of the person’s responsibilities; is acting in accordance with policies and procedures related to the safety and security of the site; and is performing a duty or exercising authority imposed or granted under the Agriculture Code, Health and Safety Code, Occupations Code, or Water Code.
What are the Criminal Consequences for an Interference with Public Duties Conviction?
Under Texas criminal law, the crime of Interference with Public Duties is classified as a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by a term in the Tarrant County jail of up to 180 days and a fine not to exceed $2,000.
Additionally, if you are convicted of interference with public duties, a judge or a jury can assess a probation term of up to 2 years and require you to perform community service and complete various classes designated by the Tarrant County Probation Department.
Possible Defenses to Interference with Public Duties
Your number one priority after being arrested for interference with public duties should be to hire the best criminal defense attorney in Fort Worth, Texas to get access to the police reports and digital media evidence and sit down with you and start formulating a defense. However, before you have that meeting with your newly hired criminal defense lawyer, you should also educate yourself on the possible legal defenses to the crime of interference with public duties.
Warning Others About A Speed Trap
The Texas Penal Code specifically states that it is a defense to the crime of Interference with Public Duties if the interference was done to warn a motorist that a police officer was attempting to enforce Title 7 of the Texas Transportation Code (i.e., catch them in a speed trap). In other words, do not worry about a police officer bothering you for warning a fellow motorist that an officer has set up a speed trap.
For example: If a police officer pulls you over and starts questioning you about why you were flashing your lights at other motorists. Was it your intent to warn others about the presence of the police officer running radar? If so, do not be ashamed to tell the police officer that was exactly what you were doing because it is not against the law to do so in Texas.
The Interference With Public Duties Was “Speech Only”
The Texas Penal Code spells out that it is a defense to the crime of Interference with Public Duties if your conduct with the police officer (interruption, disruption, impediment, or interference) consisted of speech only.
For example: what if a police officer became upset with you because you were arguing with him? We have seen this happen when a client becomes terribly upset because they believe the search warrant is invalid and they want to argue with the officer that the warrant is invalid.
Would this be considered interference with public duties? In this instance, your speech is protected, regardless of whether it interfered with an officer’s arrest, search, or investigation.
So, back to our example at the beginning of our discussion – was it illegal for someone to record a friend being searched and arrested? Did this constitute interference with public duties under Texas criminal law? NO! The key to this example was that the friend ONLY recorded the interaction and did not take more active actions against the police officer. For example, if she recorded the incident but also stood between the officer and the friend being arrested, this would have met the definition of interference with public duties.
However, as a practical matter, many police officers will choose to arrest you for interference with public duties even if they believe it will not hold up in court because they are angry that you did not comply with their demands to stop recording. Beware! You could still be looking at a night in jail, cost for bail bond services and hiring a criminal defense attorney to get your criminal case dismissed. Always pick your battles and decide if getting arrested for recording the police is worth it!
How A Criminal Attorney Can Help You Get Your Interference With Public Duties Case Dismissed
Is it possible to get your criminal charges of interference with public duties dismissed? With the help of the right criminal defense team, it is possible. The best criminal lawyers take the time to thoroughly review the evidence, go over the evidence with you and examine the strengths and weaknesses of the case and formulate a strategy for a dismissal of the charges. The four most common ways to get a criminal case dismissed include:
- Dismissal of Charges for Lack of Evidence – it is critical that the most aggressive criminal defense attorneys take advantage of the fact that the burden to prove the criminal case always remains on the State of Texas. If the prosecutor fails to prove each element of the crime of interference with public duties beyond a reasonable doubt, your criminal case must be dismissed. The Hampton Law Firm works tirelessly to create a criminal defense to persuasively show that there is reasonable doubt regarding the crime. The more prepared and persuasive the criminal defense, the more likely your criminal case will be dismissed for lack of evidence. For example, we have had multiple interference with public duties charges dismissed after preparing a defense that shows our client was passively observing the officer’s actions. This persuaded the prosecutor to abandon the case by dismissal prior to trial.
- Conditional Dismissal – what if there is a disagreement between your criminal attorney and the prosecutor regarding the quality of the evidence and whether the charge can be proven in trial? The best criminal defense attorneys push to provide the option of a conditional dismissal for their clients. In the case of interference with public duties, The Hampton Law Firm has had instances where we were able to negotiate a dismissal of charges for our client, in exchange for our client completing community service hours or an online anger management class. The most critical issue to understand is that there is substantively no difference between a dismissal for lack of charges and conditional dismissal. Both types of dismissals qualify you for an expunction of the arrest and criminal case records.
- Diversion Programs – if you are a first-time offender and meet the qualifications of your county’s diversion program options, your criminal defense lawyer may be able to assist you in being admitted into a diversion program. Why consider a diversion program? The benefit to a diversion program is that upon completing the terms and conditions of the program, your case is dismissed, and you are IMMEDIATELY eligible for an expunction of all arrest and criminal case records. Common conditions for diversion programs include a clean drug test, employment or school attendance and maintaining a clean arrest record. It is critical to speak to a Fort Worth criminal lawyer to determine your eligibility because many Tarrant County diversion programs have a 90-day eligibility window.
- Jury Trial – finally, you always have the right to a jury trial. Under U.S. and Texas Constitutions, you have the right to a trial by jury to require the State of Texas to prove the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. The jury will be required to come to a unanimous verdict on your guilt.
It is important to understand that a conviction for Interference with Public Duties can have serious long-term consequences and could threaten your future employment prospects. A conviction for Interference with Public Duties would result in a stain on your criminal record that would remain permanent, making this charge available for all future employers to see.
At The Hampton Law Firm, you have the opportunity to work with a criminal defense team of Former Prosecutors with over 85 years of criminal law experience and over 550 criminal jury trials in the courts of Tarrant County, Texas.
As a former Tarrant County prosecutor and experienced criminal defense lawyer, I will take the time to answer all of your questions, thoroughly investigate your case and produce a pre-trial strategy to seek a dismissal of your criminal charges and future expunction of your arrest record.
Call The Hampton Law Firm now for a free consultation and an opportunity to speak to me about the facts of your case and the options you have under Texas law. Call Jeff Hampton at The Hampton Law Firm at 817-826-9905.
Contact the Hampton Law Firm now to schedule a free consultation to determine your rights and legal options.