Obstructing Roadways in Colorado – C.R.S. 18-9-107

Obstructing highways or other passageways in Colorado is an interesting offense, in that it is applicable to more than just roads. It is also interesting in that it can be applied to people or corporations under the statute. To help understand this unusual law, it will be useful to break the law down into its parts.

Section (1) states “an individual or corporation commits an offense if without legal privilege such individual or corporation intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly:” Section (1) contains three important provisions. First, it tells us that the law applies to an individual or a corporation. Second, it tells us that an individual or corporation can only be convicted of this offense if it can be proven that the individual or corporation did not have legal privilege. In other words, if the facts support it, legal privilege can be asserted as a defense. Third, the statute provides the mens rea, or state of mind that must be proven before a person can be convicted of this offense. Intentionally means, essentially, that if a person or corporation’s goal, or “conscious objective”, is to commit the offense in the statute, then that element can be proven. Knowingly means, essentially, that if it is logical, or “practically certain” that a person or corporation’s conduct will violate the statute, then that element can be proven. Finally, recklessly means, essentially, that if a person or corporation’s conduct is so irresponsible and ignores obvious and significant risks, or “consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk”, then that element can be proven.

Section (1)(a) continues where section (1) left off, and further states the following: (a) “obstructs a highway, street, sidewalk, railway, waterway, building entrance, elevator, aisle, stairway, or hallway to which the public or a substantial group of the public has access or any other place used for the passage of persons, vehicles, or conveyances, whether the obstruction arises from his acts alone or from his acts and the acts of others; or”.  In breaking down this rather lengthy subsection, it is apparent that the intent of the statute is to prohibit individuals or corporations from obstructing just about anywhere that the public can go. In Colorado, this would likely include public trails in addition to buildings.  Importantly, the mens rea, or state of mind, allows reckless conduct to be included. Thus, a person who acted recklessly in cutting down a tree or causing an avalanche could, in theory, be charged with this offense. It also expressly provides that individuals in a group may be charged if a series of acts lead to the obstruction.

Section (1)(b) is an alternative to section (1)(a), so in reading subsection (b), start with section (1) and continue with the following: (b) disobeys a reasonable request or order to move issued by a person the individual or corporation knows to be a peace officer, a firefighter, or a person with authority to control the use of the premises, to prevent obstruction of a highway or passageway or to maintain public safety by dispersing those gathered in dangerous proximity to a fire, riot, or other hazard.” This subsection is concerned entirely with a person or corporation’s response to an order designed to mitigate an obstruction. For example, if a person’s vehicle is blocking a fire hydrant, that person could, in theory, be charged.

Section (2) defines obstruct: “to render impassable or to render passage unreasonably inconvenient or hazardous.”

Section (3) sets the level of offense: “an offense under this section is a class 3 misdemeanor; except that knowingly obstructing the entrance into, or exit from, a funeral or funeral site, or knowingly obstructing a highway or other passageway where a funeral procession is taking place is a class 2 misdemeanor. To see the possible penalties for a class 2 or class 3 misdemeanor click (insert link to penalties page).

As you can see, the language of the statute allows for a number of different ways for Obstructing highways or other passageways to be charged. This is also one of the few “traffic offenses” that does not carry any points should a person be convicted. However, the tradeoff is a potential maximum penalty that contemplates jail and/or a fine. The statute also provides for a number of potential defenses. An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to walk you through these potential defenses and how they could apply to your case.

Give an experienced Denver defense attorney at the Law Office of Jacob E. Martinez a call today at (720)-246-6700 or contact us for a consultation via our website.