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Obstructing, § 946.41(1) — Mere denial of Culapbility of Crime under Investigation

State v. Joseph M. Espinoza, 2002 WI App 51, subsequently overruled by State v. Brent R. Reed, 2005 WI 53
For Espinoza: Steven P. Weiss, SPD, Madison Appellate

Issue: Whether a suspect’s mere denial of guilt of the crime under investigation may in and of itself establish probable cause for the separate crime of obstructing, § 946.41(1).

Holding:

¶20. … (T)he legislature did not intend such a broad result as to include within the statute all false answers or false statements which a defendant utters intending to exculpate himself or herself against a charge of a crime and to prevent his or her prosecution.…“¶22. It seems that the intent of the legislature in Wis. Stat. § 946.41 was to prevent the waste of time, energy and expense involved in having law enforcement officers running down false leads concerning criminal conduct. Doubtless the legislature intended to circumscribe conduct which would frustrate or thwart the police function. The State makes no claim that Espinoza’s mere denial of wrongdoing thwarted the police function. And though truth and morality may have required Espinoza to answer in the affirmative when he was questioned regarding the tire incident, we cannot say that the law required him to do so.

 

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