If you hinder a peace officer, such as a prison guard, policeman or firefighter, from performing their duties, you could be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor.

Obstructing a peace officer can be as simple as disobeying an order to step aside or refusing to cooperate with booking procedures. A recent Illinois case held that a Defendant who refused to be photographed or fingerprinted was guilty of resisting a peace officer. Another Defendant who refused to exit his car when requested by a police officer was also found guilty of obstructing.

Resisting can also mean disobeying an order from a firefighter to leave or stay out of a burning building, unless you were trying to rescue someone inside.

Simply arguing with police, refusing to identify yourself or refusing to answer questions is usually not enough to trigger charges under Illinois law. However, if you refuse to identify yourself to someone attempting to serve a summons or subpoena, you can be charged.

If your resistance caused injury to a peace officer, you could be charged with a Class 4 Felony. While a Class A Misdemeanor is punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a $2,500 fine, a Class 4 Felony is punishable by 1 to 3 years in jail and up to a $25,000 fine. Anyone convicted of the misdemeanor charge is also subject to a minimum 48 hours in jail or 100 hours of community service.

If you are charged with resisting a peace officer, talk to an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. As with most other crimes, the state must prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. An attorney can examine the facts of your case to see if you have a defense. Maybe your actions do not rise to the level of an obstruction charge. Maybe you were simply arguing or exercising your Fourth Amendment right to silence.

If you are charged, do not try to explain yourself to police or a third party. What you think is a reasonable explanation might be just enough for the prosecution to convict you.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)