In general, Virginia statutes are written with the assumption that the victim of a crime is a member of the general public and not a law enforcement officer. With that said, crimes against a member of the general public, like theft for example, is not an offense against the public in criminal law terminology. Offenses against the public are broader in the sense that these offenses affect larger groups of people in a public setting.
Crimes against the police, on the other hand, are generally very similar to offenses against individuals. However, the penalties associated with a crime against a member of law enforcement are generally more severe than those against a member of the general public. For example, assault and battery on a police officer is a felony, where simple assault on an individual who is not a member of law enforcement is a misdemeanor offense. This means that if you have been charged with a crime against the police, then it is in your best interest to seek immediate legal counsel to help minimize the penalties that you could be facing.
Criminal Offenses against the Public or Police in Virginia
- Disorderly Conduct – VA Code § 18.2-415
Under Virginia law, disorderly conduct is defined as intentionally causing a public inconvenience or annoyance, or recklessly creating the risk of public inconvenience or annoyance. Law enforcement must make a judgment call to determine what type behavior is acceptable and what type of behavior will result in an arrest. Generally, police will choose to arrest you if your conduct is likely to cause acts of violence by people at whom your conduct was directed.
- Obstructing Justice – VA Code § 18.2-460
If you have knowingly, and without just cause, impeded the duties of a member of law enforcement, the court, or even an animal control officer, you can be charged with obstruction of justice. This offense is generally classified as a Class 1 Misdemeanor, but may be escalated to a Class 5 Felony if the alleged obstruction relates to particular Virginia statues (§ 18.2-248, § 18.2-248.1, § 18.2-46.2, or § 18.2-46.3) and also involves the threat of bodily harm. In Virginia, making false statements to law enforcement officials who are investigating a crime of another can also be considered an obstruction of justice.
- Public Intoxication – VA Code § 18.2-388
Have you been charged with profane swearing or public intoxication? This is a low level, Class 4 Misdemeanor, and the charge alleges that you are visibly intoxicated on alcohol or any other intoxicant. This offense does not typically result in an arrest, but rather in your transport to a detoxification center where the effects of your intoxication can subside. It is important to note that the police are not able to hold you against your will at a detoxification center.
Facing Criminal Charges in Virginia?
If you’ve been charged with crimes against the public or police in Virginia, the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico can help evaluate the details of your case and your options. For an appointment at our Roanoke office, call us at (540) 343-9349.