What does it mean to obstruct a highway?
Below is the actual language of the statute. After the statute, we discuss what this actually means in real life.
13-2906. Obstructing a highway or other public thoroughfare; classification; definition
A. A person commits obstructing a highway or other public thoroughfare if the person, alone or with other persons, does any of the following:
1. Having no legal privilege to do so, recklessly interferes with the passage of any highway or public thoroughfare by creating an unreasonable inconvenience or hazard.
2. Intentionally activates a pedestrian signal on a highway or public thoroughfare if the person's reason for activating the signal is not to cross the highway or public thoroughfare but to do both of the following:
(a) Stop the passage of traffic on the highway or public thoroughfare.
(b) Solicit a driver for a donation or business.
3. After receiving a verbal warning to desist, intentionally interferes with passage on a highway or other public thoroughfare or entrance into a public forum that results in preventing other persons from gaining access to a governmental meeting, a governmental hearing or a political campaign event.
B. Obstructing a highway or other public thoroughfare under subsection A, paragraph 3 of this section is a class 1 misdemeanor. Obstructing a highway or other public thoroughfare under subsection A, paragraph 1 or 2 of this section is a class 3 misdemeanor.
C. For the purposes of this section, "public forum" has the same meaning prescribed in section 15-1861.
What activities can be charged as obstruction?
Let's talk about section A(2) first. This basically says that a person can't push the pedestrian button at an intersection to change the light from green to red for the sole purpose of soliciting the cars that are then stopped by the red light. In other words, this is targeted at people at intersections who are seeking handouts.
Section A(3) is targeting people who are blocking travel for political reasons.
What we see in our office are charges related to section A(1). These charges often stem from an intersection takeover or street takeover. In an intersection takeover, people use their cars and bodies to block travel through an intersection so that other drivers can do donuts or other stunts in the intersection. Anyone whose car is parked in the intersection, or who is physically standing in the intersection blocking traffic, could be charged with obstruction.
Another possible situation would be if someone parked or stopped their car on a road or highway in such a way that the car was blocking the passage of traffic in a lane.
What are the consequences of an obstructing a highway conviction?
A conviction for obstructing a highway (Section A(1)) is a class 3 misdemeanor, the lowest level misdemeanor in Arizona. In theory, a class 3 misdemeanor can result in up to 30 days in jail, fines up to $500 plus surcharges (just about doubling the fines), and up to one year probation. As a practical matter, jail time and probation are unlikely unless the driver has a substantial criminal history.