Intimidating a public servant
After being subdued physically, he resorted to lashing out verbally, hurling threats and insults at the officers. As a result of today's ruling, lower courts may require an express causal link between a threat and the conduct a defendant wants the public official to take or not take. Montano first demonstrated a willingness to harm law enforcement officers by forcefully resisting arrest. As Officer Smith attempted to verify Montano's identity, Montano became agitated and began to walk away. One may infer from the threat and its attendant circumstances that Montano was attempting to influence Smith's conduct by making Smith afraid of Montano's future behavior if his arrest proceeded to booking at jail. Jones, arrived at the scene. Such an interpretation unreasonably limits the application of the public servant intimidation statute, and we reject it. A veiled threat may be more effective and thus the choice of many who seek to intimidate public servants.
Montano is correct that there is no meaningful distinction between the facts of Burke and those before us here. In the present case, the trial court concluded that the evidence of Montano's behavior and threats was insufficient to establish a prima facie case of intimidation. Montano then orally threatened to physically harm Officer Smith once Smith went off duty. There is no dispute Montano did threaten Officer Smith. As Officer Smith attempted to verify Montano's identity, Montano became agitated and began to walk away. If so, granting a Knapstad motion is improper. Limiting the state to only direct evidence to prove an intimidation charge is unwise and not required by the statute, and the majority provides no compelling justification for imposing such a policy choice. Nonetheless, the State must provide at least some evidence supporting each element of the crime charged to merit consideration by a jury. This distinction raises two concerns: That multiple, contradictory inferences are possible indicates only that material facts are in dispute. Our system of justice dictates that juries hear the evidence and decide which inference is correct. Given the brevity and nature of their relationship, it is reasonable that Montano's only or primary intent was to secure his release. But this case is not about mere insults. Second, and more importantly, the statute contains no requirement that the public servant be presently engaged in an official action in order for the defendant to attempt to influence such action. The trial court granted the motion and dismissed the charge, concluding that the State provided insufficient evidence to satisfy the elements of intimidation. See majority at ; Burke, Wn. This is an attempt to intimidate an officer. Under the Montano court's reasoning, however, the intimidation statute would apply only if the officer was in the act of arresting the person when the threat was made. We should let the jury decide. As in Burke, this behavior amply demonstrates Montano's anger at the situation and at the police officers. Like Burke, these cases are postconviction challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence. And if the majority views Montano's resisting arrest and clear lack of respect for law enforcement as distinct from his threat, the majority compounds its error by applying its new rule to a case where the additional circumstantial evidence further indicates intent to intimidate. In the absence of some evidence suggesting an attempt to influence, the State has failed to make a prima facie showing that Montano attempted to influence either officer's official action. The trial court has the inherent power to dismiss a charge when the undisputed facts are insufficient to support a finding of guilt. When Officer Smith stopped to investigate, Salvador told the officer that Montano had hit him.
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