Sometimes with good cause and other times without, the NYPD charges individuals with violating New York Penal Law 195.05, Obstructing Governmental Administration. In fact, during my years as a Manhattan prosecutor and currently as a New York criminal defense lawyer, I have seen and currently see both police and Assistant District Attorney’s charge PL 195.05 where the law is interpreted either way too broadly or it is confused with other offenses such as Resisting Arrest. An “A” misdemeanor punishable by as much as one year in a local county jail such as Rikers Island, “OGA” is not a crime that should be taken lightly. Not only is incarceration an ugly thing, but the hint or accusation of criminal conduct can have significant collateral consequences even if an accused never steps on foot in jail. Due to the above reasons, this blog entry will address the crime of Obstructing Governmental Administration and a recent NYC court decision from the Queens Criminal Court review the offense.
Before commencing a review of People v. DeJesus, 2015QN003787, NYLJ 1202738658915, at *1 (Crim., QU, Decided September 18, 2015), let’s take a moment to review the statutory language of NY PL 195.05. According to the New York Penal Law, you are guilty of Obstructing Governmental Administration if and when (in pertinent, but not complete part) you “intentionally obstruct, impair or pervert the administration of law or other governmental function or prevent or attempt to prevent a public servant from performing an official function, by means of intimidation, physical force or interference.”
In DeJesus the Queens County District Attorney’s Office alleged in their filed information (a complaint with hearsay removed) that the accused, along with others, blocked pedestrian traffic during the course of a homicide investigation and refused to move despite being asked to do so. That is it. Nothing further was alleged as to the defendant’s actions or behavior.
Upon reviewing the accusatory instrument, the court quickly and with limited discussion shot down prosecutors’ argument that the complaint was a legally sufficient one. Without more, a simple allegation that the defendant refused to move from blocking pedestrian traffic was not enough to sustain a charge of this nature (or, for that matter, even Disorderly Conduct). Not providing more guidance as to what would make the information a viable one, the following are likely some examples:
The prosecutor who drafted the case should have added something other than there was a pending homicide investigation. Were the police or detectives interviewing witnesses or attempting to secure a location to prevent contamination? Moreover, what was said to the defendant with more specificity and, other than failing to leave, what if anything did the accused do? Did he push back physically? How many times was he asked to move and how long was he blocking traffic? How did the blocking of pedestrian traffic impact the NYPD’s ability to conduct the homicide investigation if it did at all? In short, both prosecutors and the police needed to be significantly more thorough in their detailing of what transpired and how the defendant’s actions violated Obstructing Governmental Administration.
While the court ultimately dismissed this defendant’s case, such a weak complaint could easily be strengthened and made viable with a sentence or two, but that is only one lesson of this case. The other lesson is equally or even more important. Sometimes, if not always, it is not worth the headache or trouble of litigating your innocence if you can avoid the situation altogether. When in doubt, walk away. Don’t become an arrest statistic.
To find out more about Obstructing Governmental Administration, PL 195.05, whether you are accused of the crime, processed through Central Booking, arrested with a Desk Appearance Ticket or merely want to know more, review any of the links found in this entry or the blogs and websites listed below.
Saland Law PC is a New York criminal defense firm. Founded by two New York County (Manhattan) Assistant District Attorneys, the New York criminal defense attorneys at Saland Law PC represent clients throughout New York City and the metropolitan area.