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Criminal Jury Instructions

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4.3-1 Interfering with an Officer -- § 53a-167a

Revised to May 23, 2013)

The defendant is charged [in count ___] with interfering with an officer. The statute defining this offense reads in pertinent part as follows:

a person is guilty of interfering with an officer when such person obstructs, resists, hinders or endangers any (peace officer / special policeman / motor vehicle inspector / firefighter) in the performance of such (peace officer's / special policeman’s / inspector’s / firefighter's) duties.

For you to find the defendant guilty of this charge, the state must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

Element 1 - Interfered with an officer
The first element is that the defendant obstructed, resisted, hindered or endangered a <insert type of officer>.1  This element requires that you find that <insert name of officer> was a <insert type of officer>.

There are four words describing the ways interference may be committed. "Obstructs" means to interpose obstacles or impediments, to impede or in any manner intrude or prevent. "Resists" means to oppose; fight, argue or work against; or refuse to cooperate with. "Hinders" means to hold back, to delay, impede or prevent action. "Endangers" means to expose to danger or harm. None of these definitions require the use of direct force or the exercise of direct means. For purposes of this offense, they all prohibit any act that would amount to preventing or delaying the activities of the police in the performance of their duties. The use of force by the defendant is not required, but there must be some affirmative act or exertion that interferes with the officer.2 

Element 2 - In the performance of duties3
The second element is that the conduct of the defendant occurred while the officer was in the performance of (his/her) duties. The phrase "in the performance of (his/her) duties" means that the officer was acting within the scope of what (he/she) is employed to do, and that (his/her) conduct was related to (his/her) official duties. The question of whether (he/she) was acting in good faith in the performance of (his/her) duties is a factual question for you to determine on the basis of the evidence in the case. <Summarize evidence if appropriate.>

[<If the alleged interference occurred during an arrest or an attempted escape:>

In determining whether the officer was acting in the performance of (his/her) duties, you must consider another provision in our law that justifies the use of physical force by officers in (making an arrest / preventing an escape). That statute provides that an officer is justified in using physical force upon another person when and to the extent that (he/she) reasonably believes such to be necessary to (effect an arrest / prevent an escape from custody) of a person whom (he/she) reasonably believes to have committed an offense, unless (he/she) knows that the arrest or custody is unauthorized.4  An officer's use of force to (effect the arrest / prevent the escape from custody) is justified only so far as (he/she) reasonably believes that a person has committed an offense. The term "offense" means any crime or violation which constitutes a breach of any law and which is punishable by imprisonment, fine or both. The officer need not have actual knowledge that an offense was committed, but only a reasonable belief. A reasonable belief that a person has committed an offense means a reasonable belief in facts or circumstances which if true would in law constitute an offense. If the reasonably believed facts or circumstances would not in law constitute an offense, for example, the officer was mistaken that the actions of the person constitute an offense, the officer would not be justified in the use of physical force to (make an arrest / prevent an escape from custody).

It is no defense that the arrest was wrongful, as long as the officer reasonably believed that the defendant had committed an offense. That is, a person is not permitted to use physical force to resist being arrested, even if the person sincerely believes that the arrest is unwarranted, by a reasonably identifiable officer.5

It is necessary, however, that the person being arrested either knew or should have known that the other person was an officer. The standard is whether a reasonable person under the same circumstances as the defendant would have identified the other person as an officer. In determining this, consider such facts as whether the other person wore a uniform, whether (he/she) identified (himself/ herself) or showed (his/her) badge or other identification, or the manner in which (he/she) acted and conducted (himself/herself). It is irrelevant whether the officer was officially on duty at the time of the attempted arrest, as long as (he/she) was identifiable as an officer.6

If you find that the force used by the officer was not reasonable, you will find that <insert name of officer> was not acting within the performance of (his/her) official duties while attempting to (arrest / prevent the escape of) the defendant.]

[<If the alleged interference occurred in a correctional institution:>

In determining whether the officer was acting in the performance of (his/her) duties, you must consider another provision in our law that justifies the use of physical force by correction officers. That statute provides that an authorized official of a correctional institution or facility may, in order to maintain order and discipline, use such physical force as is reasonable and authorized by the rules and regulations of the department of correction.7

If you find that the force used by the officer was not reasonable, you will find that <insert name of officer> was not acting within the performance of (his/her) official duties while attempting to (arrest / prevent the escape of) the defendant.] 

Element 3 - Intent to interfere
The third element is that the defendant acted with the specific intent to obstruct, resist, hinder or endanger the officer in the performance of (his/her) official duties.8 A person acts "intentionally" with respect to a result when (his/her) conscious objective is to cause such result. <See Intent: Specific, Instruction 2.3-1.>

Conclusion

In summary, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that 1) the defendant obstructed, resisted, hindered or endangered a <insert type of officer>, <insert name of officer>, 2) while <insert name of officer> was in the performance of (his/her) official duties, and 3) the defendant specifically intended to obstruct, resist, hinder or endanger <insert name of officer>.

If you unanimously find that the state has proved beyond a reasonable doubt each of the elements of the crime of interfering with an officer, then you shall find the defendant guilty. On the other hand, if you unanimously find that the state has failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt any of the elements, you shall then find the defendant not guilty.
_______________________________________________________

1 See definitions of peace officer and firefighter in the Glossary. A "special policeman" is appointed by the Commissioner of Emergency Services and Public Protection, pursuant to General Statutes § 29-18b, to act in the special investigation section of the Department of Revenue Services and has all the powers of a state policeman. A "motor vehicle inspector" is appointed by the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles, pursuant to General Statutes § 14-8, and has "the same authority to make arrests or issue citations for violation of any statute or regulation relating to motor vehicles and to enforce said statues and regulations as policemen or state policemen in their respective jurisdictions." Motor vehicle inspectors were added to this offense by Public Acts 2008, No. 08-150, § 52, effective October 1, 2008.

2 The words "hinders," "endangers" or "interferes" are to be broadly construed to prohibit any act that would amount to meddling in or hampering the activities of the police in the performance of their duties. State v. Silva, 285 Conn. 447, 459-60 (2008). "[T]he four means of interfering listed in [the] statute are not conceptually distinct, and do not constitute disjunctive methods by which interfering with an officer can be committed." State v. Laws, 37 Conn. App. 276, 297, cert. denied, 234 Conn. 907 (1995). The refusal to provide identification upon request by a police officer investigating a crime comes within the scope of the conduct proscribed by this statute. State v. Aloi, 280 Conn. 824 (2007). Giving a false name to an officer also comes within the scope of the statute.  State v. Williams, 110 Conn. App. 778, 793-98, cert. denied, 289 Conn. 957 (2008).

3 Depending on the facts of the case, it may be necessary to instruct on the specific duties of the officer according to the evidence presented. This instruction includes the statutory provisions concerning the permitted use of physical force by police officers and correction officers. See State v. Davis, 261 Conn. 553 (2002); State v. Salters, 78 Conn. App. 1, cert. denied, 265 Conn. 912 (2003).

4 General Statutes § 53a-22 (b); State v. Baptiste, 133 Conn. App. 614, 627-28 (2012) (reversing conviction because jury was not instructed on this aspect of the performance of a police officer's duties). See also Use of Physical Force by Peace Officer in Making Arrest or Preventing Escape, Instruction 2.8-6.

5 Probable cause to arrest is not an element of this offense.  State v. Wearing, 98 Conn. App. 350, 355 (2006).  General Statutes § 53a-23 provides that "[a] person is not justified in using physical force to resist an arrest by a reasonably identifiable peace officer, whether such arrest is legal or illegal."  See State v. Sitaras, 106 Conn. App. 493, 507, cert. denied, 287 Conn. 906 (2008) (court improperly took from jury the issue as to whether the defendant used physical force or not).

6 See State v. Davis, supra, 261 Conn. 564-65.

7 General Statutes § 53a-18 (2).

8 "Although it does not appear in the statutory language . . . intent is an element of the crime of interfering with an officer." State v. Jenkins, 40 Conn. App. 601, 609, cert. denied, 237 Conn. 918 (1996); see also State v. Nita, 27 Conn. App. 103, 111-12, cert. denied, 222 Conn. 903, cert. denied, 506 U.S. 844, 113 S.Ct. 133, 121 L.Ed.2d 86 (1992); State v. Peruta, 24 Conn. App. 598, 603, cert. denied, 219 Conn. 912 (1991). The statute has thus been construed to apply only to actions that are intended to interfere with the performance of an officer's duty and to exclude any accidental or inadvertent interference. State v. Walker, 34 Conn. Sup. 548, 550 (App. Sess. 1976).

Commentary

"If [the officer] is acting under a good faith belief that he is carrying out [his] duty, and if his actions are reasonably designed to that end, he is acting in the performance of his duties. . . . The phrase in the performance of his official duties means that the police officer is simply acting within the scope of what [he] is employed to do. The test is whether the [police officer] is acting within that compass or is engaging in a personal frolic of his own. . . . The question of whether a police officer was acting in good faith in the performance of his duties is a factual question for the jury to determine on the basis of all the circumstances of the case and under appropriate instructions from the court." (Citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Torwich, 38 Conn. App. 306, 315-16, cert. denied, 235 Conn. 905 (1995); see also State v. Casanova, 255 Conn. 581, 592-93 (2001). 

Defenses
An individual charged only with violations of §§ 53a-167c (a) and 53a-167a (a) is not entitled to a self-defense instruction. If the jury finds that the officers were not acting in the course of their duties, the defendant could not be found guilty. If the jury finds that they were acting in the course of their duties, then § 53a-23 would bar the self-defense claim. State v. Davis, supra, 261 Conn. 553; see also State v. Salters, supra, 78 Conn. App. 8 (applying the rationale of Davis to correction officers). 

Lesser included offenses
When a defendant is charged with both interfering with an officer and assault on an officer, the two charges may be separate offenses or in the relationship of greater/lesser offense depending on the subsection of 53a-167c that the defendant is charged with. See State v. Jay, 124 Conn. App. 294, 311 (2010), cert. denied, 299 Conn. 927 (2011) (hurling saliva under § 53a-167c (a) (5) is materially different from conduct that causes physical injury or includes hurling a bottle or other object, capable of causing harm, which "by their nature, necessarily obstruct, resist, hinder or endanger an officer"); State v. Tyson, 86 Conn. App. 607, 616 (2004), cert. denied, 273 Conn. 927 (2005) (interfering with an officer is a lesser included offense in assault on an officer under § 53a-167c (a) (1).
 


 

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