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CRIMINAL LAW 15: The evidence was sufficient beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendant was guilty of resisting and obstructing a police officer.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

This case arises out of a call the Jackson Police Department received from a man who had gotten into a dispute with defendant. The officer on the scene ran defendant’s name through the Law Enforcement Information Network (LEIN), and discovered an outstanding warrant for defendant. When the officers entered the home, defendant, who was very drunk, was at the top of the stairs refusing to come down, and the officers stayed at the bottom.  Defendant finally came down the stairs of his own accord because both his sister and a 911 operator told him to and he allowed the officers to handcuff him without incident. After handcuffing defendant, the officers began walking him out of the house and towards the officer’s patrol car. Initially, defendant did not struggle; however, the officers claim that at some point on the way to the car defendant began to lean back and resist, and he claimed he had a needle in his pocket. Defendant claims that he did not lean back and that while he was walking slowly, he was still walking towards the car. On the way to the car, defendant yelled and cursed at the officers. Upon reaching the car, defendant kicked his foot out against the car. The officers proceeded to put defendant in the car, and they sat him down, but his legs were not in the car. Video evidence showed one of the officers telling defendant to stand up and then shoving him down when he does. During this struggle to get defendant’s legs into the car, one of the officers leaned into the vehicle and pepper sprayed defendant’s face in an attempt to get defendant to comply.   In defendant’s testimony, he stated that he shouted at the officers and told them he had a needle to give them a hard time; however, he said that he only stuck his leg against the car because he was afraid they would slam him against it, not to resist. Defendant was convicted of resisting or obstruction, and subsequently sentenced.

SUFFICIENCY OF THE EVIDENCE

Defendant argues that there was not sufficient evidence because of the brevity of the encounter and because defendant did not oppose the officers’ commands. This court reviews challenges to the sufficiency of evidence de novo.  Defendant was convicted by a jury for violating MCL 750.81d(1), which states that “an individual who assaults, batters, wounds, resists, obstructs, opposes, or endangers a person who the individual knows or has reason to know is performing his or her duties is guilty of a felony.” To sustain a conviction, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that “(1) the defendant assaulted, battered, wounded, resisted, obstructed, opposed, or endangered a police officer, and (2) the defendant knew or had reason to know that the person that the defendant assaulted, battered, wounded, resisted, obstructed, opposed, or endangered was a police officer performing his or her duties.” “Obstruct includes the use or threatened use of physical interference or force or a knowing failure to comply with a lawful command.” MCL 750.81d(7)(a) Defendant argues that there was insufficient evidence to sustain his conviction because the whole encounter in the neighbor’s home lasted for a relatively short amount of time, and the only officer who testified that defendant did not obey the officers’ commands was the arresting officer. Defendant’s argument fails because he physically interfered with the police officers and knowingly failed to comply with their lawful commands. First, defendant physically interfered with the police officers by pushing back on the way to the patrol car. Defendant also physically interfered with the police officers by refusing to spread his legs during the search at the patrol car, and when defendant refused to put his legs inside the patrol car. Moreover, defendant lied to the police officers about having a needle in his pocket. Second, defendant admitted that he knowingly failed to comply with a lawful command by not coming down the stairs immediately. Finally, although defendant claims that he did not intentionally spit on the officer, a reasonable trier of fact could infer from the officer’s testimony that defendant intentionally spit at him. Furthermore, defendant admitted to seeing the police cars in his testimony, and there was testimony that all three of the officers were in their police uniforms. Thus, there was sufficient evidence that defendant knew or had reason to know that the three people were police officers.

CONCLUSION

There was sufficient evidence to sustain defendant’s resisting and obstructing conviction.

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