Roman: Misinformation abounds about what delaying and obstructing an officer means


California Penal Code Section 148
148. (a) (1) Every person who willfully resists, delays, or
obstructs any public officer, peace officer, or an emergency medical
technician, as defined in Division 2.5 (commencing with Section 1797)
of the Health and Safety Code, in the discharge or attempt to
discharge any duty of his or her office or employment, when no other
punishment is prescribed, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding
one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail
not to exceed one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.

 VC Section 2800 Compliance with Peace Officer Orders

2800. (a) It is unlawful to willfully fail or refuse to comply with a lawful order, signal, or direction of a peace officer, as defined in Chapter 4.5 (commencing with Section 830) of Title 3 of Part 2 of the Penal Code, when that peace officer is in uniform and is performing duties pursuant to any of the provisions of this code, or to refuse to submit to a lawful inspection pursuant to this code.

I hardly ever watch videos on Facebook that are police related. That’s because of the ignorance of those involved in lot of the videos. It just plain frustrates me when I see some knucklehead acting dumb on a video claiming to know what he’s talking about.

It then frustrates me even more to know there are people watching the same video who are getting the wrong information because they’re also misinformed.

So, like I said, I usually skip videos all together because I have better things to do on the phone, like playing a game.

Well, today I didn’t follow my own advice and I watched one. I knew I should’ve just moved on to something else, but for some reason I clicked on it. The video showed a guy who was clearly being difficult on purpose during a car stop.

During the video the officer said he was “giving a lawful order,” which of course the suspect didn’t comply with. This went on for quite some time before he was taken into custody.

It got me wondering if people knew it was against the law to disobey a “lawful order.” I also wondered how many people knew it was against the law to delay, obstruct or resist an officer.

Now, let me start by saying most people are law-abiding citizens who comply with my directions and request the first time I ask. I hardly ever have to ask twice because most people understand I’m in the middle of an investigation and they’re in the way.

So, this brings me to the two laws I copied and pasted at the top of this story.

Let’s look at 148a of the California Penal Code first: “Every person who willfully resists, delays, or obstructs any public officer, peace officer.”

Now, most people aren’t going to fight with the cops because they know they’re going to jail afterward. Everyone knows fighting or running from the cops falls under the “resist” part of the law.

How about the delaying or obstructing part of 148aPC?

There’s misinformation out there or ignorance as to what delaying or obstructing is. If I can’t do my job like the other 99.9 percent of the time because you’re in the way or causing me to get distracted from what I’m doing, then you fall in the delaying and obstructing category.

If I tell you to do something over and over again, but you refuse, then you fall into the delaying and obstructing category also.

All that has to be proven in court is a person was willfully doing it. In other words, you’re doing it on purpose after I told you to stop or to move.

It amazes me to see the hurt and upset looks I get when I have to change the tone in my voice because someone didn’t get it the first couple of times. They look at me like I did something wrong.

The reality is I want to finish my call and move on to the next with as little conflict as possible. It’s just easier that way for everyone. Why would I want to be there any longer than I had to if there were going to be problems?

Let’s also look at 2800(a) of the California Vehicle Code:

It is unlawful to willfully fail or refuse to comply with a lawful order, signal, or direction of a peace officer.

This seems pretty simple, too.

If an officer asks you to do something and you don’t do it, then he or she is going to tell you to do it. At that point it’s an order. If you hear the words, “I’m giving you a lawful order,” then you’re about to go to jail. Anything other than complying is being done on purpose because you’ve already been put on notice.

When you look at it this way it should be pretty simple. Just let the officer do his or her job and listen to the instructions.

If the officer stops you while you’re driving and asks for your license, then guess what? You need to give up your license on the first request. Not after 10 times. Any normal and reasonable person can see that this is delaying and obstructing. Especially if the officer is standing in traffic at the driver’s door.

I could go on and on with examples, but it’s a pretty simple rule to follow.

So, the next time you watch a video on Facebook and you hear the officer tell someone to do something 10 times, then you know that person is breaking the law by delaying or obstructing. That person had control of their destiny by listening and following the directions the first time, but they refused to.

There’s no way a person can say, “The cops grabbed him for no reason,” or “He didn’t do anything wrong.” Yes they did.

We don’t want to fight or argue with you. We just want to get the call done and move on to the next one to help someone else.

This isn’t rocket science. It’s common sense.

Editor’s NoteJohn Roman is a traffic officer for an Orange County police agency who writes a blog, Badge 415 ( His posts focus on the human side of police work and safety tips. Roman, a cop for 20 years, has handled more than 5,000 accidents as a collision investigator. will share some of his columns