Yes, a person can face charges for intervening in police pursuits

“You want to encourage people to help do the right thing, but you’ve got to be smart about it.”

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A reckless chase that lasted around two hours all over Charlotte ended in a violent crash in South End Wednesday afternoon.

The incident started as a residential breaking and entering call where the suspect allegedly stole a Jeep, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said. During the chase, the suspect stole three additional vehicles, including a carjacking after a crash near the Ballantyne Hotel. The driver, who has not been identified by CMPD, drove erratically across Mecklenburg County and into South Carolina at one point.

RELATED: Reckless chase in Charlotte ends in a crash in South End

At one point in the chase, the driver of a pickup truck tried to stop the suspect himself, ramming the suspect’s vehicle with his own.

“It was just my instinct to intervene,” the driver of the pickup truck told WCNC Charlotte after the chase ended. CMPD had warned against civilians taking such actions, tweeting that people should not try to engage with the suspect.

THE QUESTION

Can a person face charges for intervening in a police pursuit?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

Yes, a person can face charges for intervening in a police pursuit.

WHAT WE FOUND

North Carolina law details obstruction of justice, writing: “If any person shall willfully and unlawfully resist, delay, or obstruct a public officer in discharging or attempting to discharge an official duty, the person is guilty of a class 2 misdemeanor.”

McCartan said whether prosecutors actually pursue charges comes down to the situation.

“You want to encourage people to help do the right thing, but you’ve got to be smart about it,” McCartan said. “In a lot of these situations, you’ll see somebody engage in a high-speed chase, thinking that they’re going to be able to help law enforcement officer, and meanwhile, the cops are like, ‘I got this thing, if you get out of my way.'”

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He also said a person’s motives could weigh into the decision.

“There has to be some level of criminal intent if they’re going to start charging people with a crime,” McCartan said.

During a Wednesday afternoon briefing on the pursuit, Chief Jennings said the man who intervened in this particular case was not facing charges.



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