Resisting and Obstructing a Police Officer - Jury: NOT GUILTY!

JuryJB: Brian, the news is you just got another NOT GUILTY on all counts, right on the heels of two other NOT GUILTY verdicts. How do you feel about that? BP: Well, thank you. I would say that "relieved" would be a good word to describe the way I feel. And that goes for every trial, because there is always so much at stake. JB: What was your client charged with? BP: My client was charged with the crimes of Resisting and Obstructing a Police Officer (commonly called R&O or Police Officer - Assault/Resist/Obstruct) and count two, being a Disorderly Person in public. JB: I see. W hat was your client specifically accused of doing? BP: Well, specifically, my client was accused of being rather drunk, walking into a restaurant, trying to start a fight with some other guy by "advancing" on him – to use the cops' word, and then physically resisting the efforts of no less then six different police officers to arrest him. In their opening statement, the Prosecution even claimed that he "threw a drink in their face." The whole incident ended with my client being put in a martial arts style jaw pressure take down and then being tasered with 50,000 volts of electricity. JB: Wow. Could you give us a little bit of an idea of what the crime of Resisting and Obstructing a Police Officer involves? BP: Sure. And it involves just about every thing under the sun. If you look at the standard jury instruction for Resisting and Obstructing a Police Officer, you'll see that it actually encompasses seven different types of actions on a police officer: assaulting, battering, welding, resisting, obstructing, opposing, or endangering a police officer. Some of those words are so broadly defined that it's impossible to even fathom all the different types of things that could violate this law. So a police officer looks at you and says "hey you." You turn your head slightly away and don't say anything. Are you "opposing" the police officer? It just gets ridiculous. RELATED: Is Resisting and Obstructing a Felony or Misdemeanor in Michigan? JB: That really gives the police a lot of power. Is there anything good about Michigan's Resisting and Obstructing law? BP: I suppose so. The jury instruction also makes it clear that there has to be actual resistance. A skillful trial lawyer can do a lot with that language from the jury instruction. The instructions says "the person must have actually resisted by what they said or what they did, but physical violence is not necessary." So I guess there's the good with the bad. That's the way a lot of laws are written. As a criminal defense lawyer who takes a lot of cases to trial, you really have to know the law and the jury instructions. JB: I noticed some of the things you mentioned could have to do with using words toward a police officer. Can I really be arrested for Resisting and Obstructing when I'm exercising my first amendment rights to free speech? BP: That's a great question. I wish more people would ask that. And the technical answer is "no." Something that is a fundamental Constitutional right cannot be a crime. So then we have to look into what exactly is Constitutionally protected speech? For example, political speech is always protected. If I'm standing in public, where I am allowed to be, protesting a law that I don't like (perhaps Michigan's Resisting and Obstructing law,and I am doing so peacefully, a police officer cannot arrest me because he wants me to leave and I refuse. On the other hand, obscenity is not protected speech.so if some guy is standing on a street corner shouting obscenities through a bullhorn, you better believe he's getting arrested. And if he resists, they'll charge him with that too. JB: So what if it ends up being my word versus a police officer? He claims I resisted, but I say I didn't. What now? BP: You know, that's an issue that came up in my very last Resisting and Obstructing jury trial. Except it wasn't just one police officer, it was six of them! That's quite honestly when you're going to need a skilled and experienced trial lawyer – when it's just your word versus the police. That's a very dangerous position to be in. JB: So when you go to trial on a Resisting and Obstructing case, do you sort of, you know, take advantage – if I can say that – "take advantage" of all that's going on with the police in the news lately? BP: OK, I don't know about the phrase "take advantage." Do I ignore that, absolutely not. But I'm not taking advantage of anything. Everything that's going on in the news right now with police officers, like Officer William Melendez in the case of Floyd Dent in Inkster, it's not some new phenomenon. The only thing that's different is the truth about what's always been going on is finally being exposed. And if I feel that that has happened to one of my clients, I'm not going to be the least bit shy about telling a jury exactly what's going on. In fact, in my last trial, I came right out of the gate and told the jury that if these officers didn't have badges, and if they weren't writing the only history of the case in their police reports, they would be in the criminal defendants chair. But where you run into trouble is this – if you are like me and you have a very diverse group of friends on social media like Facebook, then you already know that a lot of people out there that still have ultimate trust in and respect for police officers, just because they are police. So how do you defend someone against a charge of Resisting and Obstructing with a jury full of those types of people in a case where it's your word against six police officers? That's where the skill and preparation comes into play. And while I don't want her to expose my winning strategies publicly, I will just say this: if the jurors do not feel that you are a member of their group, who shares their beliefs, then they will reject the lawyer's arguments and will have no problem checking the "guilty" box on the verdict form. JB: I think I see what you're saying. Real quickly, could you tell us about the Moreno case? BP: Yes. In 2012, the Michigan Supreme Court decided the case of People v. Moreno, 491 Mich 38 (2012). It changed our law of Resisting and Obstructing. It says that if the officer never had a right to arrest a citizen in the first place, if that citizen resists or obstructs, they still cannot be charged with R&O. The law in Michigan used to be the opposite. JB: So in 50 words or less, how did you win in this jury trial and get a NOT GUILTY verdict on all counts? BP: I can say it in just a few words. Yes, there's lots of skill involved. And yes, the inexperienced trial lawyer could easily lose a case like this. But my winning strategy ultimately was very simple: I told the truth. RELATED: Can Brian J. Prain beat my Resisting and Obstructing charges? JB: So if someone is charged with Resisting and Obstructing a Police Officer, what should they do? BP: Why not give us a call here at Prain Law, PLLC, anytime at (248) 731-4543 Everyone gets a free consultation. While I certainly can't take everyone's case who wants me to represent them, I sure do try! JB: You only defend a select group of types of crimes, is that right? BP: Yes. Every thing I defend has some element of assault, broadly defined of course. JB: What other types of charges do you defend against besides Resisting and Obstructing a Police Officer? BP: Misdemeanor Simple Assault, Assault and Battery, Aggravated Assault, Domestic Violence, Felony Assault, Stalking, and Criminal Sexual Conduct ("CSC"), which I have been focusing on a lot lately. A few other types, too. JB: Brian, thank you for your time. It's been my pleasure. BP: No, thank you for your time. I absolutely look forward to anyone giving me an opportunity to talk about what I love. My work is my life. I hope you get the chance to enjoy the summer.
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