Court Rejects First Amendment Overbreadth Challenge to Ban on Obstructing Law Enforcement
From U.S. v. Phomma, decided Wednesday by Judge Robert E. Jones (D. Ore.):
The indictment charges Defendant with violating § 231(a)(3), which is part of the Civil Obedience Act of 1968…. Defendant states in his Motion to Dismiss that on August 26, 2020, he “was involved in the protest against racial injustice at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) building located at 4310 S.W. Macadam Avenue, Portland.” … According to the government, on the night of August 26, Defendant “sprayed several Portland Police Officers with bear spray. The officers were wearing gas masks, but one officer noted that his neck and arms ‘started to burn.’ When he and the others removed their gas masks, their faces felt the same burning sensation.” The government states that “protesters filled the street, making passage by cars or delivery vehicles impossible.”…
Section 231(a)(3) provides,
Whoever commits or attempts to commit any act to obstruct, impede, or interfere with any fireman or law enforcement officer lawfully engaged in the lawful performance of his official duties incident to and during the commission of a civil disorder which in any way or degree obstructs, delays, or adversely affects commerce or the movement of any article or commodity in commerce or performance of any federally protected function … [s]hall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.
The statute defines “civil disorder” as “any public disturbance involving acts of violence by assemblages of three or more persons, which causes an immediate dang
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