Colorado Revised Statutes § 18-8-102 prohibits “obstructing government operations“. This section makes it a crime to intentionally impair or hinder a governmental function by a public servant through the use (or threatened use) of violence, force, or physical interference.
A conviction is a class 2 misdemeanor punishable by
- up to 120 days in jail and/or
- up to $750 in fines.
The language of Section 18-8-102 states that:
(1) A person commits obstructing government operations if he intentionally obstructs, impairs, or hinders the performance of a governmental function by a public servant, by using or threatening to use violence, force, or physical interference or obstacle.
(2) It shall be an affirmative defense that:
(a) The obstruction, impairment, or hindrance was of unlawful action by a public servant; or
(b) The obstruction, impairment, or hindrance was of the making of an arrest; or
(c) The obstruction, impairment, or hindrance of a governmental function was by lawful activities in connection with a labor dispute with the government.
(3) Obstructing government operations is a class 3 misdemeanor.
- Threatening to hurt a city council member’s family if he holds a referendum,
- Punching out a state senator to keep her from voting, or
- Blocking the driveway of a United States federal court clerk with motor vehicles to keep him from getting to court
Below our Denver Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss:
- 1. What is obstruction of government operations in Colorado?
- 2. What are the penalties under CRS 18-8-102?
- 3. What are the best defense strategies?
- 4. Is the crime deportable?
- 5. How long until the record can get sealed?
- 6. What is the statute of limitations?
1. What is obstruction of government operations in Colorado?
The legal definition of obstructing governmental operations has three elements:
- The defendant intentionally obstructs, impairs, or hinders a public servant;
- The public servant is engaging in the performance of a governmental function; and
- The defendant uses or threatens the use of force, violence, or physical interference or obstacle.1
A public servant comprises:
- Any government officer, public official, or employee (elected or appointed),
- Any advisor, consultant, process server, or another person in a public office performing a governmental function (not including witnesses)2
And a government function is any activity that a public servant is legally authorized to undertake on behalf of the government.
Example: A public defender is ascending the staircase to the courthouse to represent a murder suspect at trial. The victim’s family forms a human chain in front of the public defender, preventing her from entering the courthouse. Here, the family is violating CRS 18-8-102 because they are intentionally preventing the public defender – a public servant – from defending the suspect – the performance of a government function.
Had the family simply held up signs and protested, they would not have broken the law because then there would have been no impairment.
Note that obstructing government operations is a different crime from obstructing a peace officer (CRS 18-8-104).
2. What are the penalties under CRS 18-8-102?
Obstructing government operations is a class 2 misdemeanor, carrying:
- Up to $750 in fines, and/or
- Up to 120 days in jail3
In terms of seriousness, class 2 misdemeanors are one rung above petty offenses.
3. What are the best defense strategies?
Depending on the case, five potential defenses to Colorado government obstruction charges include:
- The defendant did not act intentionally. Perhaps the defendant had a medical episode – such as a seizure – that caused the physical force or violence on the public servant.
- The defendant never hindered or impaired the public servant. Perhaps the defendant was only peacefully protesting or sent angry emails, which does not rise to the level of obstruction.
- There was no hindrance to a governmental function. If the public servant was off-duty, CRS 18-8-102 charges do not apply. (However, the defendant could potentially face assault or similar charges for hurting the public servant.)
- The defendant never used – or threatened to use – force or physical interference. Simply yelling at or giving false information to a public servant does not qualify as force or violence.
- The defendant was falsely accused. Perhaps the public servant was fed up with the defendant’s disorderly conduct or false statements about him/her and fabricated the obstruction accusation.
The following are three affirmative defenses that Colorado courts recognize. This means that if the defendant raises one of these defenses, then the burden is on the prosecution to disprove them.
- The defendant was obstructing the public servant’s unlawful action.
- The defendant was obstructing an arrest. (This is instead prosecuted as resisting arrest by a police officer (CRS 18-8-103).)
- The obstruction was part of lawful activities related to a labor dispute.4
Common evidence in these cases includes surveillance video, medical records, recorded communications, and eyewitness testimony.
4. Is the crime deportable?
The law is unclear whether a CRS 18-8-102 violation is deportable. This criminal offense is only a minor misdemeanor, but this unlawful act potentially involves violence.
Any non-citizen charged with hindering government activities should consult an experienced attorney right away. The attorney can determine whether the charge jeopardizes such a person’s resident status and – if so – may be able to get the charge dismissed or changed to a non-deportable offense.
Learn more about the criminal defense of immigrants.
5. How long until the record can get sealed?
A conviction of obstructing government operations may be sealed two years after the case ends. But if the case gets dismissed, then there is no waiting period to pursue a record seal.5 Learn about how to get a Colorado criminal record seal.
6. What is the statute of limitations?
There is an 18-month statute of limitations for the prosecutors to press CRS 18-8-102 charges. This means that once law enforcement authorities learn of the alleged government obstruction, they have 18 months to prosecute the suspect(s). After that, the suspects may not face charges for that incident.
See our related articles on resisting the making of an arrest by a law enforcement officer (CRS 18-8-103), tampering with physical evidence (CRS 18-8-610), and means of intimidation of a witness (CRS 18-8-704).
Arrested in California? See our article on obstructing justice.
Arrested in Nevada? See our article on hindering a public officer (NRS 197.190).
- Colorado Revised Statutes 18-8-102 CRS.
- CRS 18-1-901, for the purposes of this section.
- CRS 18-8-102. Although SB21-271 failed to mention CRS 18-8-102 specifically, presumably the crime was changed from a class 3 misdemeanor to a class 2 misdemeanor on March 1, 2022. Class 3 misdemeanors carried $50 to $750 and/or up to 6 months in jail.
- Same criminal code.
- CRS 24-72.
- CRS 16-5-401.