The facts surrounding Mr. Schwartz’s actions demonstrate he acted with purpose to obstruct or delay law enforcement from the performance of official duties.
State v. Schwartz
2023 – Ohio – 1424
Twelfth District Appellate Court
Fayette County, Ohio
May 1, 2023
On January 24, 2022, Mr. Robert Schwartz rented a U-Haul truck from an authorized dealership in the state of Indiana. The truck was scheduled to be returned the following day. Mr. Schwartz failed to return the vehicle or notify the dealership accordingly. Representatives of the rental dealership made multiple attempts to contact Mr. Schwartz in order to extend the contract and receive additional payment. Although Mr. Schwartz indicated he would authorize additional payments on his credit card, no such payments were forthcoming. Mr. Schwartz never indicated when he would return the vehicle, despite the dealership insisting on the vehicle’s immediate return or payment on an extended rental agreement.
On February 15, 2022, the U-Haul field manager informed Mr. Schwartz that he would report the truck stolen unless Mr. Schwartz returned the vehicle or provided additional payment, which, again, Mr. Schwartz failed to do. The truck was reported stolen on February 25, 2022, approximately thirty-one days after Mr. Schwartz first rented the vehicle.
On February 28, 2022, an Ohio State Trooper, Haley Shreck, was patrolling a rest area where she observed the stolen U-Haul truck. Trooper Shreck and her backup approached the truck and observed that the windows had been covered and their visibility into the vehicle obstructed.
Trooper Shreck and her backup gave orders for the truck’s occupants to show their hands and step out of the vehicle. The only occupant, Mr. Schwartz, did not comply with the orders which were repeatedly given. Instead, Mr. Schwartz raised an item covering the window to look outside at the officers. Trooper Shreck noticed that Mr. Schwartz had an unknown object wrapped in a rag in his right hand. Due to safety concerns, Trooper Shreck immediately ordered Mr. Schwartz to drop the object in his hand. Mr. Schwartz chose not to comply. Instead, Mr. Schwartz re-covered the window obstructing any visibility into the U-Haul compartment.
Concerned with what Mr. Schwartz may have in his possession, Trooper Shreck and her backup retreated and took cover. For nearly an hour, law enforcement gave dozens of lawful commands demanding that Mr. Schwartz exit the vehicle and show his hands. Eventually, Mr. Schwartz exited the vehicle and was arrested without further incident.
Obstructing Official Business
O.R.C. §2921.31(A) provides that “[N]o person, without privilege to do so and with purpose to prevent, obstruct, or delay the performance by a public official of any authorized act within the public official’s official capacity, shall do any act that hampers or impedes a public official in the performance of the public official’s lawful duties.” Therefore, to obtain a conviction pursuant to R.C. 2921.31(A), the state is required to prove five elements: “‘(1) an act by the defendant; (2) done with the purpose to prevent, obstruct, or delay a public official; (3) that actually hampers or impedes a public official; [(4)] while the official is acting in the performance of a lawful duty; and (5) the defendant does so act without a privilege to do so.'”
The offense of obstructing official business generally requires “the doing of some affirmative act by a defendant.” State v. Jones 2016-Ohio-67.. However, “failing to act may still constitute obstruction of official business in certain circumstances.” State v. Florence, 2014-Ohio-167. As we have previously stated, “[t]he proper focus in a prosecution for obstructing official business is on the defendant’s conduct, verbal or physical, and its effect on the public official’s ability to perform his lawful duties.” State v. Standifer, 2012-Ohio-3132.
In so doing, “the state does not need to prove that the defendant successfully prevented an officer from performing his or her official duties.” State v. Alexander, 2017-Ohio-5507. The state need only present evidence demonstrating a defendant interfered with the performance of an official duty and made it more difficult to perform.
Robert Schwartz Obstructed the Official Business of Trooper Schreck
After reviewing the record, we find Mr. Schwartz’s conviction for obstructing official business is supported by sufficient evidence. The state presented testimony and evidence from which the jury could have found all the essential elements of the offense proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The state introduced evidence that Mr. Schwartz purposefully obstructed law enforcement’s investigation and made the performance of their duties more difficult to perform. Officer Shreck ordered Mr. Schwartz out of the U-Haul truck and told him to drop what was in his hand. Mr. Schwartz not only ignored these commands, but he also covered up the window, which caused Trooper Shreck and her backup to retreat and take cover.
For nearly an hour, Mr. Schwartz remained in the truck, ignored lawful commands, and interfered with the investigation into the U-Haul which had been reported stolen. Mr. Schwartz eventually complied while providing no explanation except that he had some “negative experiences with officers” in the past. The evidence supporting Mr. Schwartz’s conviction was further captured on Trooper Shreck’s body camera, which was introduced at trial and which confirms the relevant facts. The facts surrounding Mr. Schwartz’s actions demonstrate he acted with purpose to obstruct or delay law enforcement from the performance of official duties.
This case was issued by Twelfth District Appellate Court and is binding in the following Ohio Counties: Brown, Butler, Clermont, Clinton, Fayette, Madison, Preble and Warren.
Information for this case was obtained from State v. Schwartz, 2023 – Ohio – 1424.
- To obtain a conviction for Obstructing Official Business O.R.C. §2921.31 law enforcement must articulate how the suspect did or did not commit an act that hindered the officer’s investigation. In this case, Mr. Schwartz failed to follow the lawful commands of Trooper Schreck. However, there may be times when a person does not follow law enforcement commands that may not be violative of Obstructing Official Business. Each case will be a fact-driven analysis.
- Trooper Schreck did well to slow the situation down, make dozens attempts to de-escalate and provide Mr. Schwartz MORE than reasonable time to cooperate. Schwartz’s lack of compliance is so often repeated in other suspects behaviors that results in law enforcement’s use of force. If only suspects complied, they would find themselves in less legal trouble and in some cases no legal trouble at all. Trooper Schreck should be commended for her patience and professionalism.
- For more information on Obstructing Official Business see https://www.objectivelyreasonable.com/category/obstructing-official-business/
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