The Crime of Disrupting Public Services in the State of Ohio

The disruption of public services in the state of Ohio is a serious crime. Disruptions can range from the interruption of communications and transportation, in any form, to tampering with utilities such as gas, electric, and water. If you have been charged with disrupting public services, the sooner you enlist the assistance of an experienced attorney, the better your chances of building the best possible defense against this charge.

Section 2909.04 of the Ohio Revised Code defines disrupting public services

“(A) No person, purposely by any means or knowingly by damaging or tampering with any property, shall do any of the following:

(1) Interrupt or impair television, radio, telephone, telegraph, or other mass communications service; police, fire, or other public service communications; radar, loran, radio, or other electronic aids to air or marine navigation or communications; or amateur or citizens band radio communications being used for public service or emergency communications;

(2) Interrupt or impair public transportation, including without limitation school bus transportation, or water supply, gas, power, or other utility service to the public;

(3) Substantially impair the ability of law enforcement officers, firefighters, rescue personnel, emergency medical services personnel, or emergency facility personnel to respond to an emergency or to protect and preserve any person or property from serious physical harm.

(B) No person shall knowingly use any computer, computer system, computer network, telecommunications device, or other electronic device or system or the internet so as to disrupt, interrupt, or impair the functions of any police, fire, educational, commercial, or governmental operations….”

If you are convicted of disruption of a public services it is a felony of the fourth-degree. A fourth-degree felony is punishable between 6 and 18 months (in one month increments) in prison and a fine up to $5,000.  You could receive court community control sanctions (also called probation) instead of a prison sentence and be required to pay court costs, restitution and fine. If you are sent to prison you may also be placed on three years of post-release control (also called parole) after your release from prison.

Understanding the Charges of Disrupting Public Services

In Ohio, you can be charged with disrupting public services if you take a cell phone from someone or pull the house phone off the wall. As you would expect defending against this charge takes experience and insight. The primary idea behind this law is to discourage individuals from interfering with or disrupting the many public services we all enjoy and take for granted. There are several situations that may fall under this statute.

  1. Disrupting Public Services: Communications

Interrupting communications in any manner can result in a charge of disrupting public services.  This includes radio, video, and telephone transmissions, or interrupting the use of a computer.

  1. Disrupting Public Services: Transportation and Utilities

Public and school bus transportation is also a public service that falls under this law, as does the disruption of public utilities such as the water, gas, and electric.

  1. Disrupting Public Services: Personnel

One can also be charged with this crime if they substantially impair the ability of law enforcement officers, firefighters, rescue personnel, emergency medical services personnel, or nurses and doctors that work in a hospital emergency room in their efforts to respond to an emergency or attempting to protect and preserve any person or property from serious physical harm.

If you have been charged with disrupting public services in Ohio, an experienced criminal defense attorney will help determine whether you have any defense(s) to the charge(s) and will thoroughly discuss your options. Should you decide to go to trial, a skilled defense attorney is an absolute necessity. For more information and a free consultation, please contact Jeff Hastings, experienced Cleveland Criminal Defense Attorney.

Self-Defense and the Ohio Castle Doctrine

The Castle Doctrine is intended to protect homeowners from being threatened inside their own homes, but it is complicated. If you’re claiming self-defense, you need an experienced attorney at your side.

BurglarWhen do you have the right to use deadly force in self-defense? When will the law work with you, rather than against you, in the face of threat? In Ohio, the ability to use deadly force for self-defense – and not go to jail for manslaughter or murder – must meet certain standards.

Duty to Retreat

If you are in public, on a street or in a public place, and you face a physical threat, you have what’s called a “duty to retreat” – in other words, rather than face the threat, you are required by law to do your best to escape from the threat by leaving, running away, or getting help from a peace officer. Only when the use of force is your only alternative will self-defense be found legitimate by a jury. Currently, the law in Ohio requires a defendant asserting self-defense to prove three things by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not):

(1)   That the defendant was not at fault in creating the situation giving rise to the “affray.”

(2)   That the defendant “had a bona fide belief that he was in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and the only means to escape such danger was in the use of such force.”

(3)   That the defendant “did not violate any duty to retreat or avoid the danger” as discussed above.

The Castle Doctrine

While you have a duty to retreat when threatened in public, Ohio is a “stand your ground” state when it comes to being threatened in your own home. You do not have to retreat if an intruder enters your home and threatens you or your family.

And intruders are the clearest cases where the Castle Doctrine applies and your argument of self-defense will not be questioned when someone breaks into your home and threatens your safety or the safety of your family. At that point, you are within your rights to use deadly force to defend yourself and your family from the intruder.

In order to be protected by the Castle Doctrine, the intruder must actually be inside your home or attempting to enter (coming in/breaking through a door or window). If the intruder is simply peeking through a window and has not made an attempt to enter, you need to call 9-1-1 and request assistance from the police. For the Castle Doctrine to apply, you must actually believe that your life or the lives of your family members are in grave danger.

There are limits to the application of the Castle Doctrine.

Invited Guests

You will not be able to use self-defense against a threat from someone who has been invited to be in your home, even if it was someone else (a spouse or child) who invited the person in. There are, of course, extenuating circumstances where this would not apply and you would be allowed to use the self-defense argument, but it is rare.

Other Residents

You cannot claim self-defense against other residents of your home. For example, you cannot kick your adult child out of the home then shoot them when they try to come back in.

Departing Burglars

As much as you might think you have the right, if the burglar or intruder is leaving your home, you are no longer protected under the Castle Doctrine, because your life is no longer in imminent danger.

Delivery People

You cannot use self-defense against postal workers or FedEx drivers who have short-term rights to be on your property. You also cannot use self-defense if you’re not home and arrive to find someone breaking in. Then, you must call the police.

The only other time the Castle Doctrine applies is if you are in your car and must act in self-defense to preserve your life. The same elements apply: you must not have invited the person into the car with you, you must not be able to flee or retreat, and your life must actually be in danger.

The Castle Doctrine is intended to protect homeowners from being threatened inside their own homes, but it is complicated. If you are being charged with a crime and believe you acted in self-defense, you need an experienced Ohio criminal defense attorney to help you navigate the criminal process. For more information and a free consultation, please contact Jeff Hastings, experienced Cleveland Criminal Defense Attorney.


Ohio OVI Laws – Arm Yourself with Knowledge

IgnitionIn January, 2005 Ohio’s Physical Control Statute (R.C. 4511.194) went into effect. This statute governs “physical control” of a vehicle and is similar to statutes governing DUI, except that you don’t have to have the vehicle on or even be driving to be charged under Ohio’s physical control statute.

Ohio’s Physical Control Statute states:

“’Physical control’ means being in the driver’s position of the front seat of a vehicle or in the driver’s position of a streetcar or trackless trolley and having possession of the vehicle’s, streetcar’s, or trackless trolley’s ignition key or other ignition device.”

It goes on to say that no person can be in physical control of a vehicle (i.e., in the driver’s seat) if that person:

  • Is under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or any combination of them
  • Has a blood alcohol content of .08 or more.

What does the Physical Control Law mean for citizens?

Because of this law, it is no longer safe to “sleep it off” in your car, especially if you put the key in the ignition or plan to run the car to heat or cool it. Having car keys “within reach” satisfies the statute’s definition of physical control. While it may seem like another layer of legal maneuvering, the Physical Control statute is a positive step. It offers a reduced punishment for those who drink but choose not to drive. However, your best bet is to not get behind the wheel for any reason if you have been drinking.

Can my attorney help me get the charge reduced?

An effective attorney may be able to help you get a physical control charge reduced to a lesser charge, but many variables will come into play, such as:

  • Your driving and criminal record
  • The officer’s report and the facts surrounding the charge(s)
  • Your blood alcohol content at the time
  • The judge’s feelings toward physical control charges
  • Whether or not you drove or caused an accident in advance of the physical control issue

Because Ohio courts have a low to no tolerance attitude toward OVI/DUI cases, it is crucial that you find a Cleveland criminal attorney who is experienced in handling DUI, OVI, and Physical Control cases.

If you have been charged with a DUI/OVI or Physical Control crime in Cleveland or Northeast Ohio, you need an experienced criminal attorney to help you navigate the criminal process. For more information and a free consultation, please contact Jeff Hastings, experienced Cleveland Criminal Defense Attorney.


Reduce Your Legal Expenses by Choosing a Smaller Law Firm

If you have ever watched some of the most popular legal shows, whether you were an “LA Law” fan or prefer “The Good Wife,” you may get the idea that the law is exciting and full of intrigue at every turn. While there are moments of excitement for every attorney, the reality is that is that most lawyers often work very long hours both during the week and on the weekend.

Attorneys, in private practice, generally either work for large law firms that employ many attorneys (let’s say over ten) or a smaller law firm with less than ten attorneys. The larger law firms generally come with a lot of overhead expenses. There are the large offices, the high downtown rent and parking, the salaries for the partners, associates, paralegals, administrative assistants, etc. While higher hourly rates for a large law firm’s partners and associates may be charged for the knowledge and skill of the attorney assigned to your case (and the complexity of the case), the large law firms also charges higher hourly rates to cover its many overhead expenses.

A small firm or solo practitioner, with same knowledge and professional skills as a partner in a large firm, will also provide excellent legal representation while often charging a much lower hourly rate because of lower overhead (smaller offices, lower rent, etc.) and fewer employee paychecks to distribute.

As an attorney, associated with a smaller law firm and with over 23 years of legal experience, I provide affordable and competent criminal defense and civil litigation services to a variety of clients in Cleveland and around Ohio. If you have a legal question or concern, contact Cleveland Ohio criminal and civil attorney Jeff Hastings for a free consultation.