Have you ever noticed that you can almost count on someone being charged with, or threatened with charges for, “obstructing justice” on just about every police drama you watch on television or on the big screen? It seems to be the “go to” charge for when a police officer is angry with the individual but cannot charge him/her with an actual crime. Obstruction though is a real crime with real penalties for a conviction. Exactly what is obstruction in Nebraska? It may pay to know in the event you are ever in a situation in real life where an officer charges you, or threatens to charge you, with obstruction.
In the State of Nebraska obstruction is officially referred to as “Obstructing government operation” and can be found in Section 28-901 of the Nebraska Revised Statutes. According to the statute, obstructing government services is defined as follows:
“A person commits the offense of obstructing government operations if he intentionally obstructs, impairs, or perverts the administration of law or other governmental functions by force, violence, physical interference or obstacle, breach of official duty, or any other unlawful act, except that this section does not apply to flight by a person charged with crime, refusal to submit to arrest, failure to perform a legal duty other than an official duty, or any other means of avoiding compliance with law without affirmative interference with governmental functions.”
After reading through the definition of obstruction in Nebraska is should be clear why obstruction is always portrayed as the “catch all” charge on television and the movies. The broad definition can apply to a virtually endless number of fact scenarios. Breaking the crime down, however, helps to understand exactly what the State of Nebraska would need to prove to convict you of obstruction.
1. Intentionally – this is referred to as the “mens rea”, or state of mind, required. “Intentionally is the highest means rea, meaning the defendant cannot have committed the act by mistake or without full knowledge of his/her actions and complete intent to commit the act.
2. Obstructs, impairs, or perverts – very broad language that could apply to almost any situation where the defendant’s actions, or failure to act, had a negative impact.
3. The administration of law or other governmental functions – this usually applies to an ongoing police investigation but could apply to any governmental function, such as collecting taxes, issuing civil citations, or even providing services such as schools or utilities.
4. Force, violence, physical interference or obstacle, breach of official duty, or any other unlawful act – this sounds like it requires force or violence; however, the “any other unlawful act” can open the door to other interpretations. For example, if you lied in court or under oath that is perjury, which is illegal, and could also be considered the basis of a charge for obstruction.
Obstructing government operations is a Class I misdemeanor in Nebraska and is punishable by up to a year in jail and/or up to a $1000 fine.
As you can see, the crime of obstruction is broadly defined, meaning it can apply to numerous situations. If you have been charged with obstruction in Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
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