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Ordinance prohibiting interference with police upheld as constitutional

Updated: Jun 29, 2022

St. Louis County enacted an ordinance making it unlawful "for any person to interfere in any manner with a police the performance of his official duties or to obstruct him in any manner whatsoever while performing any duty." County police officers arrested protesters at an anti-police-brutality protest outside of the Ferguson Police Department. The protesters were charged with violating the ordinance, and argued that the ordinance was unconstitutionally vague and over broad, and violated free speech. The Missouri Court of appeals, in Bennett and Frazier v. St. Louis County, ED105470 (Mo. App. E.D. Dec. 19, 2017),held that the ordinance was not over broad, and the "mere possibility" that the ordinance might prohibit constitutionally-protected speech did not render it unconstitutional. The Court also rejected the argument that the phrases "interfere in any manner" and "obstruct in any way whatsoever" were impermissibly vague, because an "ordinance person of common intelligence has sufficient...notice of what conduct is prohibited by the Ordinance: physically interfering with or obstructing a police officer in their official duties." The Court noted that given the "wide variety of circumstances and physical conduct which confront law enforcement" the County likely could not have drafted more limiting language than it had. The protesters have requested a transfer to the Missouri Supreme Court.

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