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Name: In re Chase C.
Case #: D067787
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 12/18/2015
Summary

Evidence that minor verbally encouraged other minors not to cooperate with police was insufficient to sustain a true finding that he resisted, delayed, or obstructed a peace officer (Pen. Code, § 148). Based on a tip, an officer suspected that two minors in a group of other minors were selling drugs and ordered the entire group to sit on a curb. After one of the suspect minors was uncooperative, Chase, who was not a suspect, told him not to listen or obey the officer. Another officer arrived and detained and handcuffed all the other nonsuspect minors who were standing around. Chase continued to protest, telling the other minors not to listen to the officer or say anything. Chase was arrested, but continued to protest, yelling for the other minors not to cooperate when the officers tried to obtain their information. He was charged with resisting, delaying, or obstructing a peace officer in violation of section 148. The juvenile court found the allegation true and adjudged Chase a ward. Chase appealed. Held: Reversed. Evidence that Chase encouraged the minor suspect to remain uncooperative was insufficient to sustain the true finding because Chase’s verbal criticism of the officer’s detention was political speech protected by the First Amendment. (See Long v. Valentino (1989) 216 Cal.App.3d 1287.) Likewise, the evidence that Chase told the nonsuspect minors to not provide police their information was also insufficient to sustain the true finding because the officers were not engaged in the lawful performance of their duties, which is an essential element of a violation of section 148. The nonsuspect minors had done nothing to create a reason to detain them and the detention of the minors was unlawful. There was no violation of section 148 under these circumstances. (See In re Joseph F. (2000) 85 Cal.App.4th 975, 982.)

Minor’s delay in responding to directive from police officer while engaging in protected speech did not violate section 148. After his arrest, Chase continued to encourage the nonsuspect minors to not provide their information to the police, and he refused to provide his identification as well. Chase eventually complied with the request for his information en route to the police station. The Court of Appeal agreed with Chase that his conduct did not violate section 148. “Under California law, the fact that someone verbally challenges a police officer’s authority or is slow to comply with orders does not mean that he or she has delayed an investigation.” The First Amendment protects a person’s right to verbally dispute an officer’s actions. (See People v. Quioga (1993) 16 Cal.App.4th 961.) Here, Chase did not use physical force and he did not insert himself into an investigation that did not involve him. Although the act of refusing to disclose one’s identity at the booking stage unquestionably obstructs an officer’s discharge of his or her duties, Chase disclosed his identifying information prior to booking.