Solomon McLemore and his girlfriend were engaged in a loud verbal altercation at their home in Shoreline, WA. A neighbor contacted the police, who responded and asked to be let inside. No one inside responded to the door after a period of roughly 15 minutes. The sounds of breaking glass inside the home then prompted officers to break through the door and enter. McLemore suddenly appeared requesting the officers to leave because they did not have a search warrant; however, the police arrested him.
McLemore was actually with obstructing the operation of law enforcement. He was later found guilty and penalized by 20 days of house arrest. The court stated that the “officers responded appropriately” to what clearly appeared as a situation involving domestic violence. The question of whether the police should have obtained a search warrant for entry was debated.
Supreme Court Split
The case ultimately was heard by the state's Supreme Court. The court found that “insufficient evidence” existed to sustain a conviction for obstruction against him. The court decision was split 4 to 4 among the panel of judges, meaning that the prior judgment could not be reversed.
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Concerns
The Washington Supreme Court's lead findings stated that the act of refusing to open the door to the home for the police should not be deemed as an obstruction of justice. Justice Steven Gonzalez issued a formal statement that “criminalizing the refusal to open one's own door” to allow police access when they do not have a warrant runs contrary to the values of the constitution. Because of the split ruling among the Supreme Court's panel, the conviction against McLemore remained in place. The ACLU of Washington publically opposed the conviction, citing constitutional rights.
Obstructing a Law Enforcement Officer (RCW 9A.76.020)
The crime of obstructing law enforcement requires that the offender acted willfully or knowingly. It involves creating a hindrance or delay that impedes members of law enforcement from performing the duties of their job. Obstruction may prevent state or federal peace officers or those who enforce codes such as fire, zoning, safety, etc. The offense is classified as a gross misdemeanor.
Gross Misdemeanor Charges in Washington State
Charges classified as gross misdemeanors are less severe than felony charges. Examples of common misdemeanor offenses include traffic violations, theft charges, and minor drug offenses. These crimes may be heard in local municipal court venues. The maximum punishment that may be imposed is one-year of incarceration and a $5,000 fine.
Criminal Defense Attorney in Washington State
Steve Karimi is a Seattle-based attorney that represents clients in cases where they face criminal allegations. Members of law enforcement may overlook the constitutional protections that are required when making an arrest. Mr. Karimi will review the course of events to ensure that the accused was afforded their rights. In addition, he closely examines the evidence as part of a comprehensive strategy of defense. For a complimentary case evaluation, contact the office today at (206) 621-8777.