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California Penal Code Section 169 PC: Picketing Near Court To Obstruct Justice

1. Definition and Elements of the Crimejustice obstruction

The rights of free speech and free assembly are guaranteed under both the United States and California constitutions, however there may be circumstances where the exercise of these rights crosses the line and can subject a person to criminal charges. While it is legal to peacefully protest outside of a courthouse, picketing near a court in order to obstruct justice is illegal under California Penal Code Section 169 PC.

In order to prove that a defendant is guilty of picketing near a court to obstruct justice, a prosecutor must be able to establish the following elements:

  1. The defendant picketed or paraded in or near a building which houses a court of the state.
  2. AND the defendant acted with the intent to interfere with, obstruct, or impede the administration of justice
  3. OR the defendant acted with the intent to influence any judge, juror, witness or officer of the court in the discharge of his or her duty.
2. Related Offenses

Similar offenses include the following:

  1. Disturbing a Public Meeting - California Penal Code Section 403 PC
  2. Unlawful AssemblyCalifornia Penal Code Section 408 PC
  3. Refusal to Disperse - California Penal Code Section 409 PC and California Penal Code Section 416 PC
3. Examples

A man is charged with murder under California Penal Code Section 187 PC and many of his supporters believe he is being falsely prosecuted. Each day, his supporters gather outside the courthouse to picket. One day, members of the protest try to surround the bus carrying the defendant in order to prevent him from being transported into the court. In addition, they try to block the entrance of the court so that witnesses and jurors are unable to enter. These protesters could be charged with picketing near a court to obstruct justice in violation of California Penal Code Section 169 PC.

In another example, a popular celebrity is charged with a crime and many of his supporters gather at the courthouse each morning to show support. They wear t-shirts proclaiming the defendant’s innocence and carry signs with messages of support. The protest does not block any entrance and is not so loud that is disturbs people inside the courthouse. These protesters would not be criminally liable for picketing near a court to obstruct justice, as their actions are lawful exercises of free speech and free assembly that are constitutionally protected.

4. Defenses to Picketing Near a Court to Obstruct Justice

There is a fine line separating what is constitutionally protected activity and what may be considered criminal interference. If the protest was conducted peacefully and did not obstruct the administration of justice, the defendant would not be guilty of this offense.

In addition, there may be circumstances where a person inadvertently entered a large protest without realizing it. In these cases, the defendant would not be criminally liable, as he or she did not intend to interfere with court proceedings or influence the administration of justice.

5. Penalties

Picketing near a court in order to obstruct justice is a misdemeanor level offense that is punishable by up to 180 days in jail, expensive court fines, community service and/or labor requirements and any other conditions of probation that a judge may choose to impose. A conviction for this offense would go on a person’s record and could prove toxic to future employers, landlords or anyone else conducting a criminal background check.

6. Criminal Defense for Picketing Near a Court to Obstruct Justice

If you have been accused of or charged with picketing near a court to obstruct justice, it is absolutely critical that you speak with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney right away. Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience who is highly skilled at defending individuals charged with offenses like this. Mr. Kraut understands that many of those charged with this offense do not have criminal records and works hard to ensure that their constitutional rights are protected. Mr. Kraut is a dedicated advocate who works tirelessly on his clients’ behalf to ensure they get the best representation possible.

For more information about picketing near a court to obstruct justice, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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