Obstruction of Telephone or Telegraph Service in Colorado – C.R.S. 18-9-306.5

This offense has a complex sounding name – “Obstruction of Telephone or Telegraph Service.” With that said, this is a very common charge and one of the laws that can be relatively easy to understand.

The statute, or law, states that a person commits this offense if:

“[t]he person knowingly prevents, obstructs, or delays, by any means whatsoever, the sending, transmission, conveyance, or delivery in this state of any message, communication, or report by or through any telegraph or telephone line, wire, cable, or other facility or any cordless, wireless, electronic, mechanical, or other device.”

In short, this essentially means that an individual can be charged with this offense if they take any step towards interfering with someone’s ability to communicate by telephone, computer, telegraph, and/or any other devices capable of transmitting a communication.

Understanding the thrust of the offense is an important first step but it is also important to dissect the law in order to understand the different approaches to cases that include this charge.

The first thing to take note of in this statute is that it requires that the suspect or defendant take the action “knowingly.” This “knowingly” dynamic is a part of the ‘mens rea’ or ‘required mindset’ that one must have had at the time of committing the offense. Knowingly means that when a person commits an offense, they were practically certain that their conduct would cause an outcome. The difference is important – a person who cuts a telephone cable to prevent someone from calling 911 has committed Obstruction. A person who inadvertently cuts a telephone cable, while vacuuming, for example, would not have knowingly prevented another’s ability to make a call.

The second important to take note of in the statute is that it prohibits certain behavior – ‘preventing, obstructing, or delaying’ someone’s efforts to send a message. This provision is broad as it states “by any means whatsoever.”

Another important feature of the statute is that it tells us that this offense is a class 1 misdemeanor – the highest-level misdemeanor we have in Colorado.

Although appearing as a seemingly simple law, the different elements that must be proven, by the prosecution, are numerous and intricate. Further, this offense is often charged with a Domestic Violence enhancement and in conjunction with other potential domestic violence-related offenses. That is all the more reason to have an experienced and knowledgeable Colorado defense attorney on your team is critical when you are facing this or a related charge. Contact the Law Office of Jacob E. Martinez in order to set up an initial consultation so we can discuss your matter.