Court of Appeals upholds Loudoun ‘hindering’ conviction
The case stemmed from a domestic violence complaint in Sterling in February 2013.
According to the Loudoun Commonwealth's Attorney Office, deputies responded to Roberts' Sterling residence to investigate a complaint of domestic violence. Once the officers arrived, Roberts refused to provide deputies with identification and shouted obscenities at them, demanding they get out of her house. When deputies asked Roberts to confirm she understood what they were asking by providing a yes or no answer, Roberts just responded “yes or no answer.”
She was subsequently placed under arrest for hindering a law enforcement officer in the performance of his duties, a violation of Loudoun County Ordinance 654.09.
An attorney for Roberts filed an appeal with the Court of Appeals of Virginia challenging Roberts’ criminal conviction. The attorney asserted the county ordinance does not define “hinder.” Attorneys for Roberts further argued that a suspect who fails to cooperate fully with a law enforcement officer or behaves in a way that makes the officer’s task more difficult does not hinder that officer from performing the task.
How hindering should be construed and the sufficiency of the evidence regarding whether Roberts’ conduct constituted hindering were the primary topics of oral arguments, according to the commonwealth's attorney office.
"The trial court found that appellant hindered Deputy Van Brocklin’s investigation of a domestic assault complaint by engaging in a continuing course of conduct that included: ordering him to leave the home, refusing to provide her state-issued identification to him, and providing nonresponsive answers or refusing to acknowledge his inquiries," the judge's opinion states. "The trial court stated, 'When you are required to investigate a domestic dispute, identification is crucial. Refusing to answer the questions, refusing to identify yourself, and telling somebody ... get out of my house with an attitude is clearly hindering that investigation.”
Commented Loudoun Commonwealth's Attorney Jim Plowman (R) in a prepared statement, “This is not only a significant win for Loudoun County, but for all local jurisdictions that wish to tighten the laws to prevent people from interfering in a law enforcement investigation. Further, it reinforces the position that local jurisdictions will take the necessary steps to aide and protect those that help keep our communities safe.”
The affirmation of the conviction means that Roberts must pay the $2,500 fine imposed by Judge Benjamin N. A. Kendrick on Aug. 1, 2013, along with any court costs associated with the case unless further appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court. The decision also means that Roberts’ conviction will remain on her criminal record and that the validity of the Loudoun County Ordinance is supported as it relates to the specific issues presented.