Defense to Failure to Obey an Officer in Maryland

Police officers, in any jurisdiction and in any part of the country, want people to do what they say. When an officer says something to a citizen, he wants that citizen to obey. But it is important to recognize this does not mean the citizen must do what the officer says, whatever it is. Or that just because the officer tells the citizen to do or not do something and they disobey that that amounts to a crime in Maryland.

Failure to Obey an Officer is a crime against the public, not the officer
It is important to recognize that Failure to Obey an Officer falls under the criminal code section for disorderly conduct in Maryland. The crime is defined in Maryland Criminal Law section 10-201(c)(3) as:
A person may not willfully fail to obey a reasonable and lawful order that a law enforcement officer makes to prevent a disturbance to the public peace. (emphasis added)
The law does not state that a person may not fail to obey any order of an officer’s, rather it states that a person may not fail to obey an order that is made to prevent a disturbance to the public peace. This law is designed to protect the public. A good example of this is when a riotous crowd has gathered, and an officer tells a person to leave in order to disperse the crowd. This would be done ostensibly for the purpose of protecting the general public.

What if the officer’s order has nothing to do with preventing disorderly conduct?

However, I have seen a number of times where an officer has charged someone with failure to obey an order simply because the accused did not do what the officer wanted him to do. If the order has no relationship whatsoever to preventing a disorderly conduct offense, then it is not a crime under this section of the law. For instance, a police officer may pull someone over and find out they are driving without a license. The officer tells the driver not to drive the car and to have someone come pick up the car. The officer then sees the driver still operating the vehicle a few minutes later, and arrests the driver for failure to obey an order. There’s a perfect defense for this charge because the driving without a license after the officer told the driver not to do so has nothing to do with preventing a public disturbance!

Some police officers can go out of their way to make life difficult for those who disagree with their actions. One of the ways they do that is by slapping on a Failure to Obey charge when it really should not be charged. To speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney about your failure to obey or disorderly conduct case or any other charges, contact the Law Offices of Christopher L. Peretti any time at 301-875-3472. As always, consultations are complimentary.

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.