All crimes in New York, whether you are arrested in Manhattan or somewhere in Westchester County, have specific elements that prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt. While some elements are fairly straight forward, other elements have their own legal definitions or case decisions that are utilized to explain or further define them. One of those offenses that is better understood in the context of legal decisions is the crime of Second Degree Obstructing Governmental Administration. An “A” misdemeanor, a person convicted of New York Penal Law 195.05 faces up to one year in jail. Using the examples above, if that conviction occurred in Manhattan or anywhere in New York City, the time served would be on the infamous Rikers Island. Incarceration in White Plains, New Rochelle, Yonkers or anywhere in Westchester County would be served in the Westchester County Jail.
Regardless of whether, probation, community service or time served is a sentence for NY PL 195.05, prosecutors must have enough evidence to establish the crime and have a legally sufficient complaint. To do so, a misdemeanor complaint must allege (in substances) that you intentionally obstructed or impaired the administration of law or other governmental function or prevented or attempted to prevent a public servant from performing an official function, by means of intimidation, physical force or interference, or by means of any independently unlawful act.
With this general understanding of what constitutes Obstructing Governmental Administration in the Second Degree, I want to address a recent court decision that breaks this crime down further. In People v. Jefferson Rodriguez, 2010QN015435, NYLJ 1202559253047, at *1 (Sup., QU, Decided May 31, 2012), the defendant, a former deputy sheriff, had been terminated from work due to mental health issues. Despite his inability to return to work, the defendant appeared at his workplace over multiple days in an area restricted from the general public. On each day, law enforcement personnel advised the defendant to leave the premises or he would face arrest. Ultimately, after failing to leave, the defendant was in fact arrested for Trespass.
Although the charge of Trespassing was legally sufficient, Rodriguez challenged the sufficiency of the NY PL 195.05 charge that followed. In dismissing the arrest charge of Obstructing Governmental Administration in the Second Degree, the criminal court recognized that one’s refusal, in a general sense, to comply with a police directive does not violate this statute. See, People v. Ferreira, 10 Misc.3d 441 (Crim. Ct. N.Y. 2005). Instead, one must physically interfere with the police. As noted by the court: “While obstruction can also be accomplished by an independently unlawful act, such was not the case here as the unlawful act was a trespass and a trespass in and of itself did not in any way interfere with the officers carrying out their official duties.”
Merely because one commits the crime of Trespassing, however, does not protect one from potential prosecution for NY PL 195.05. In fact, courts have found a violation of Obstruction of Governmental Administration in the context of a Trespass, but not a Trespass alone. For example, in People v. Steward, 32 Misc. 3d 135 (App. Term 2011) (rev’d on other grounds), the defendant was asked to leave a courtroom and refused to do so. Unlike Rodriguez, however, the defendant committed a separate, physical and unlawful act by striking and kicking the police officer who attempted to escort him from the premises. Similarly, in People v. Nunez, 2012 WL 1150124 (Crim. Ct. N.Y. 2012), a defendant refused to follow an order by an NYPD captain to leave a premises and instead locked arms with another person. It was these additional physical actions that were the basis of the “OGA” charges.
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Saland Law PC is a New York criminal defense firm founded by two former Manhattan prosecutors. The New York criminal lawyers at Saland Law PC represent clients accused of crimes throughout New York City and the region.