Interfering With Police and the Consequences
Crimes happen everyday. In many instances, when people are arrested they are charged with a crime, or multiple crimes, and then they begin to traverse the justice system. Traffic-related offenses are often precipitated by traffic stops. However, sometimes even if there is no crime charged, your noncompliance with officers may result in charges just based on those actions. These charges would likely fall under New Jersey’s laws for obstruction of justice.
Obstructing the Administration of Law
Although obstruction of justice is typically the term people are familiar with, New Jersey law refers to it as something else. Under New Jersey law the same offense is called obstructing the administration of law. This is codified in N.J.S.A. 2C:29-1. The law includes purposefully obstructing, impairing, or preventing the administration of justice. It also includes attempting to prevent a public servant from lawfully performing an official function by means of flight, force, violence, physical interference, or through any independently unlawful act. What this means is that not only can you be charged with obstructing the administration of justice if you try to interfere with your arrest, but also if you interfere with the arrest of another.
Issues with the latter example came into play for Public Safety Director Ralph Rivera Jr. very recently. The Bergen Dispatch reported on Dr. Rivera’s potential for charges based on the way he conducted himself during a traffic stop on March 19. Although he was not stopped, someone he was acquainted with was. At the traffic stop, the passenger of the stopped driver contacted Rivera. Rivera attempted to take possession of the driver’s vehicle so that it would not be impounded. According to the article, the police report stated that Rivera was actively attempting to interfere with the officer’s arrest multiple times, but the dash-cam video shows Rivera being very compliant with the demands of the officers on the scene. In the end prosecutors chose not to press charges against Rivera.
Dr. Rivera is not the only individual facing these charges and getting them dropped. On May 5, NJ.com reported on Rebecca Musara, a woman who was arrested immediately following a traffic stop. Although Rebecca did not commit any crime, when officers began questioning her, she refused to answer questions. Musara, an attorney, stated that she was not obligated to answer the officers’ questions, but was otherwise completely compliant during the stop. Subsequently, Musara was arrested and taken to a holding cell. When she asked why she was being detained, the officers alluded to obstruction. In the end, no charges were pressed against her, and she was released after a more senior officer took the time to review the dash-cam footage.
Challenging Your Charges
Obstruction of the administration of justice can certainly be a hefty crime. If the charges are only related to being a disorderly person then the offense is charged as a misdemeanor, but if the charge is brought as an obstruction claim then it would constitute a crime in the fourth degree, with much higher penalties. Obstruction charges do not always survive scrutiny. As the instances mentioned above demonstrate, even public servants may not know exactly what constitutes obstruction in the state of New Jersey. This is why you need the assistance of a licensed New Jersey criminal law attorney like Phillip J. Murphy to help you with your claim. Phillip J. Murphy is licensed to practice in New Jersey and has been practicing law since 1989. Contact us today to discuss your options.