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State v. Pembaur – Case Brief Summary (Ohio)

State v. Pembaur, 9 Ohio St. 3d 136, 459 N.E.2d 217, cert. denied, 467 U.S. 1219 (1984) is illustrative of what constitutes acting "in the performance of an officer's duties," the Supreme Court of Ohio considered the claims of appellee, a medical doctor, and his receptionist, who had closed and barred the door leading from the reception area of the medical center to prevent two deputy sheriffs and two Cincinnati police officers from serving capiases upon two employees of the medical center for failing to appear before a grand jury.

Citing its opinion in Columbus v. Fraley, 41 Ohio St. 2d 173, 324 N.E.2d 735 (1975), the court held that in the absence of excessive or unnecessary force by an arresting officer, a private citizen may not use force to resist arrest by an authorized police officer engaged in the performance of his duties, whether the arrest is illegal under the circumstances. Pembaur, 9 Ohio St. 3d at 138.

Notably, the court's holding regarding specifically prohibiting interference with a police officer ostensibly performing his or her duties, is based on policy considerations recognized in Fraley:

In altering the common-law rule granting a person the right to resist an unlawful arrest, the Fraley court deemed it preferable, considering the crunch of modern society, to resolve questions concerning the legality of police conduct in the courts through peaceful means rather than on the street in potentially violent confrontation. Fraley is determinative in the present case. Although defendant may well successfully challenge the use against him of any evidence obtained by the deputies in their search for defendant's employees, defendant was not privileged to physically impede the deputies in their attempt to locate the subjects of the capiases. Pembaur, 9 Ohio St. 3d at 138.