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Words Alone Can Constitute a Crime in Florida

A recent client of the Shorstein & Lasnetski law firm asked whether a person can be charged with and convicted of a crime in Florida based upon words alone and no overt actions. The answer is yes. One example of a crime that can be committed based on words only is obstruction of or resisting a law enforcement officer without violence. This is a misdemeanor crime in Florida, but it is a first degree misdemeanor crime that carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail. A person commits the crime of resisting, or obstruction of, an officer without violence by resisting, opposing or obstructing an officer in the lawful execution of his/her duty without any violence.

This kind of crime is often committed by a person who physically resists an arrest by refusing certain commands of a police officer without being violent towards the police officer. However, it can be committed by using words alone. For example, if a police officer is lawfully searching for a suspect, lawfully arresting a person or lawfully seeking assistance and someone says something to the police officer to prevent him/her from performing the job, that person can be charged with obstructing/resisting an officer without violence.

An example occurred recently in a criminal case south of Jacksonville, Florida. The police officer had a court order to be served on an individual, and he had reason to believe she was in a particular apartment. The defendant answered the door and said the woman was not there and that he had not seen her for several days. The police officer soon learned that she was hiding in a closet in the next room. When he found her, she told the police officer that the defendant was covering for her. The defendant was charged with and convicted of obstructing the officer in his lawful duties.