Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Damaging the Phone While Someone is Calling 911
The Ohio Supreme Court decided that if someone damages or otherwise interrupts the attempted electronic contact with the police or fire department, they can be prosecuted and convicted for "Disrupting Public Service" - which is a felony. In State v. Robinson, 2009-Ohio-5937, the Court held that if that "conduct substantially impairs the ability of law-enforcement officers, firefighters, rescue personnel, emergency-medical-services personnel, or emergency-facility personnel to respond to an emergency or to protect and preserve any person or property from serious physical harm," then the person causing the damage can be prosecuted and convicted of that statute. This situation comes up most often when one person snatches the phone from another person trying to call 911 and damages the phone or the phone line. The defendant in that case had tried to argue that the statute can only apply when the actions of the a defendant shut down or interfere with an entire phone system - rather than just one phone. However, the Supreme Court of Ohio rejected that argument and held that just damaging one phone is enough for a conviction. If someone is calling the cops over what can only be a misdemeanor, the damaging of the phone to prevent or interfere with that call transforms the whole incident into a felony. So don't smash the phone - just sit and wait for the cops or walk away.