In the recent opinion of People v. Baskerville, 2012 IL 111056, the Illinois Supreme Court found that a husband didn’t commit the crime of obstructing a peace officer (720 ILCS 5/31-1) when he allegedly lied to a police officer about his wife’s whereabouts but where the lie didn’t actually impede the officers’ progress in investigating the crime.
In Baskerville, a La Salle County sheriff’s deputy observed a woman driving whose license he believed to be suspended. He followed her home and initiated a traffic stop, but she went inside the house. Her husband then came to the sheriff’s deputy and told him that his wife was not at home and that he was the one that was driving and offered to show him his driver’s license. The husband then went back into the house and after emerging again, told the officer that he could search the house for the wife if he wanted.
Both the husband and the wife were charged with obstructing the police officer based on the false statements and were convicted. On appeal, the appellate court found that that there was a physical act that was required under the statute to obstruct a peace officer and overturned the husband’s conviction on those grounds. However, while the Illinois Supreme Court reversed the conviction, it did so on separate grounds.
The supreme court held that false statements could be considered to obstruct a peace officer and that a physical act is not required, as “applying the dictionary definition, it is evident that 'obstruct; encompasses physical conduct that literally creates an obstacle, as well as conduct the effect of which impedes or hinders progress. Furnishing false information could thus be included within that definition, as it can undoubtedly interfere with an officer's progress". At Paragraph 19 of People v. Baskerville.
The supreme court found, however, that there was insufficient evidence that there was obstruction of a peace officer because the officer was not actually impeded. While the husband initially falsely denied the wife was in the house, he later gave the officer consent to search the house, though the officer did not do so. The Supreme Court found that because of the consent to search the house, the officer was not actually impeded and overturned the conviction.