Ms. Mattle’s actions did hamper and impede the officers in removing Ms. Mattle from the vehicle and her actions also provide support for the conclusion that Ms. Mattle had the purpose to hamper and impede the officer’s actions.
State v. Mattle
2023 – Ohio – 1352
Ninth District Appellate Court
April 26, 2023
On Wednesday October 13, 2021, around 11:30 p.m., Officer Kevin Landals with Barberton Police Department was on patrol in a marked cruiser. Officer Landals was en route to back up another officer at a traffic stop when he encountered an SUV stopped between two sets of railroad tracks. Officer Landals saw that the driver, Ms. Brandi Mattle, was on her cell phone. Officer Landals flashed his alley lights at the car to get her attention. Ms. Mattle rolled down her window and Officer Landals noticed that she had red, watery eyes. Officer Landals told Ms. Mattle she could not be stopped there. Ms. Mattle apologized and indicated she had not been there before. Officer Landals left the scene to proceed to the traffic stop. Officer Landals learned that another officer was at the traffic stop and so Officer Landals decided to turn around and further investigate Ms. Mattle’s vehicle.
Ms. Brandi Mattle had stopped her vehicle between these two train tracks in Barberton, Ohio because she claimed that her dog had knocked over her purse. Ms. Mattle would be arrested and charged with Obstructing Official Business based on her behavior. The legal question is whether a suspect has to inhibit an officer from completing an investigation or is delaying the investigation enough to sustain the conviction?
Officer Landals passed over the railroad tracks, turned on Norton Avenue, and noticed the SUV straddling the straight and right turn lanes. He observed Ms. Mattle talking with people on the sidewalk. Officer Landals turned around, got behind Ms. Mattle’s vehicle and initiated a traffic stop for a marked lanes violation. Officer Landals observed that Ms. Mattle had a dog in the car with her.
Officer Landals found Ms. Mattle to be confrontational. He noticed an odor of an alcoholic beverage as soon as he began talking to her at the car window. Ms. Mattle denied having any alcohol. Office Landals asked for Ms. Mattle’s driver’s license, and she produced a real estate license and a credit card. Ultimately, she did produce her license. Ms. Mattle told Officer Landals that she knew people and that she was going to call other people.
Officer Landals asked Ms. Mattle to recite the alphabet and Ms. Mattle questioned why she was being asked to do that. Ms. Mattle repeated the letters T, U, and V a few times before making it through the alphabet. Officer Landals then asked Ms. Mattle to count backwards from 59 to 39. Ms. Mattle again became agitated, grabbed her phone, and insisted she was going to be calling people. Officer Landals informed Ms. Mattle that she could not make phone calls during the traffic stop.
Ms. Mattle Demonstrates Behaviors that Comport with Obstructing Official Business
At that point, Officer Landals told Ms. Mattle to get out of the vehicle. Ms. Mattle then put the vehicle in drive. Officer Landals attempted to open the door from the outside, but it was locked. Officer Landals reached inside to open the lock and Ms. Mattle put the car in park and began to roll up the window saying that she was going to roll up his hands in the window. Officer Landals unlocked the vehicle and began to pull her out and Ms. Mattle attempted to bring the dog with her. Officer Landals told her to put the dog down. Eventually Ms. Mattle was placed under arrest and put in the cruiser.
Officer Landals explained why he believed that Ms. Mattle was obstructing official business: “We have on a traffic stop we are legally allowed to ask somebody to step out of the vehicle. When I did that, she put her car in drive which I took as an action to attempt to flee from the traffic stop. She refused the lawful order to step out of the vehicle and forced me to hold her window down instead of getting my hands rolled up to complete this lawful action of getting her out of the vehicle.”
Officer David Denson provided back up to Officer Landals at the traffic stop of Ms. Mattle. Officer Denson approached the passenger side of the vehicle. Officer Denson heard Ms. Mattle arguing with Officer Landals and then heard Officer Landals ask Ms. Mattle to step out of the vehicle. Officer Denson testified that Ms. Mattle then “put her car in drive and tried to roll her window up and take off.” Officer Denson tried to open the passenger door to get into the vehicle to put it in park and then came over to the driver’s side to try and assist Officer Landals.
Ms. Mattle Testified that she Stopped on the Roadway because her Dog Knocked Over her Purse.
Ms. Mattle’s mother and Ms. Mattle testified for the defense. Ms. Mattle’s mother’s testimony largely related to the traffic case that is not before this Court. Ms. Mattle testified that she has not had a drink since March 2021 and was not drinking that evening. Ms. Mattle testified that she got into an argument with her boyfriend and then drove to her mother’s house to pick up her dog. She talked to her mother for a while and then left. She indicated that, at the railroad tracks, she was trying to organize some things after the dog had knocked over her purse. Officer Landals came by and told her that she could not be parked there. Ms. Mattle proceeded on but then was stopped again. Ms. Mattle described being anxious. Ms. Mattle admitted to being very rude and oppositional towards the officer.
She indicated that she did not understand why she was being stopped and was concerned about being accused of something she had not done [must have been the dog’s fault]. She was also worried her ex-husband would use the traffic stop against her in their custody dispute.
Ms. Mattle maintained that she did not put her car in drive; instead, the car was already in drive. Additionally, she asserted that she was rolling the window up to keep the dog from getting out of the car. Nonetheless, she agreed that she told the officer that she would shut his hands in the door.
On appeal, Ms. Mattle argues that her actions did not illustrate that she acted with purpose to obstruct or delay the officers in the performance of their duties. Ms. Mattle maintains that she could have fled but did not. Thus, Ms. Mattle was available for questioning, and she did not substantially hinder the officers in the performance of their duties.
Does a Suspects Behavior have to Actually Impede the Officer from Completing His Duties to Sustain a Conviction for Obstructing Official Business … OR … Can the Suspect Simply Delay the Performance of the Officer to Sustain the Conviction?
However, in viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution, we conclude that sufficient evidence was presented that, if believed, showed that Ms. Mattle acted with the purpose to prevent, obstruct, or delay the officers in the performance of their duties and that her actions did hamper them in doing so. See Barberton Codified Ordinances §606.14(A). There was evidence that Ms. Mattle refused to get out of the vehicle when ordered to do so, put the car in drive, and attempted to roll up her window on the officer’s hand. From these actions, it could be inferred that Ms. Mattle was attempting to flee. Additionally, the affirmative act of rolling up the window while the officer’s hand was in the vehicle was also obstructive as he was trying to remove Ms. Mattle from the vehicle. And while, “[B]efore it can be concluded that an officer was hampered or impeded, there must be some substantial stoppage of the officers’ progress … there is no finite period of time [that] constitutes a substantial stoppage.” … “If the record demonstrates that the defendant’s act hampered or impeded the officer in the performance of his duties, the evidence supports the conviction. [T]his element does not require that [the defendant] cause the officers to fail in their duties, but only that, by acting, [the defendant] disrupted their performance of them.” Here, Ms. Mattle’s actions temporarily but substantially impeded the officers in removing her from the vehicle. Ms. Mattle has not demonstrated that her conviction is based upon insufficient evidence.
Ms. Mattle Claims She Could have Fled but Didn’t Therefore She Did Not Obstruct Officer Landals
Ms. Mattle asserts that her testimony was more credible and that she therefore lacked the mens rea to obstruct. Specifically, she points out that she testified that she did not put the car in drive; instead, it was in drive the entire time. She also notes that she testified that she rolled up her window to keep her dog from jumping out of the vehicle. Additionally, Ms. Mattle argues that, even if she did put the car in drive, there was no evidence that the car moved, and thus the evidence does not support that she attempted to flee or that she hindered the officers in the performance of their duties.
Here, we cannot say that the trier of fact lost its way in its credibility determinations. Both officers testified that Ms. Mattle put the car in drive. Nonetheless, Ms. Mattle maintains that their testimony is inconsistent, and therefore less credible, in that one of the officers testified that the act of placing the car in drive was an attempt to flee, while the other stated that Ms. Mattle attempted to take off. However, we cannot say that the officers’ testimony is inherently inconsistent or raises credibility issues. Any differences in their testimony can be easily accounted for as simply different ways of describing the same scene given that they are two different individuals with two different vantage points. Moreover, even Ms. Mattle acknowledged that she told the officer that she was going to shut his hands in the door, thereby making her testimony that she rolled up the window to keep her dog from jumping from the vehicle less credible.
Conclusion – Ms. Mattle DID Hamper or Impede
The fact that Ms. Mattle did not move the vehicle after putting it in drive does not negate the evidence that Ms. Mattle both put the vehicle in drive and rolled up the window while telling the officer that she was going to shut his hands in the door. The totality of the evidence supports that Ms. Mattle, at the very least, was considering flight; the fact that she was unsuccessful in fleeing or reconsidered fleeing is not determinative. Ms. Mattle’s actions did hamper and impede the officers in removing Ms. Mattle from the vehicle and her actions also provide support for the conclusion that Ms. Mattle had the purpose to hamper and impede the officer’s actions.
Considering the totality of the evidence presented, we cannot say that Ms. Mattle has demonstrated that the trier of fact lost its way and created a manifest miscarriage of justice in finding her guilty of obstructing official business.
Ms. Mattle’s second assignment of error is overruled.
- Brandi Mattle’s obstinate behavior led to her arrest, conviction and the denial of her appeal. Law enforcement must demonstrate how the suspect’s actions inhibited the officer from conducting a criminal investigation. Here, Ms. Mattle refusal to exit the vehicle, roll up the window and shut the door on the officers were sufficient to sustain the conviction for Obstructing Official Business. This charge in the Ohio Revised Code is §2921.31, however, Ms. Mattle was convicted under Barberton City Code §606.14(A) – same thing … only different.
- A similar case was decided by the Second District Appellate Court on June 17, 2016. There a passenger in vehicle kept screaming at the two Huber Heights officers investigating whether the driver was impaired. The officers were able to determine that the intoxicated passenger grabbed the wheel from the driver and jerked the car outside the lane of travel. Because the passenger would not desist her turbulent behavior the officers arrested Ms. Amanda Terry. Terry made the same legal argument that Ms. Mattle made – that the officers, though temporarily inhibited in the criminal investigation, were not completely stopped from the investigation. The Second District Appellate Court came to the same conclusion as the Ninth District Appellate Court made in this case. The Second District Appellate Court held “But this element [actually hamper or impede] does not require that [the defendant] cause officers to fail in their duties, but only that, by acting [the defendant] disrupted their performance of them.” State v. Terry, 2016 – Ohio – 3484. Consequently, law enforcement does not have to be actually inhibited in the investigation … only unreasonably delayed by the suspects actions.
- For more information on Obstructing Official Business see: https://www.objectivelyreasonable.com/category/obstructing-official-business/
- Both Officer Kevin Landals and Officer David Denson should be highly commended in their patience and reasonableness in the arrest of Ms. Mattle. Her ridiculous behavior led to this charge and conviction. Had Ms. Mattle, like so many other suspects, had simply complied with the officer(s) lawful orders, her ex-husband would have never known about her absurd behavior on Wednesday October 13, 2021. Well done Officer Landals and Officer Denson!
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