For any acts that prevent an officer from making an arrest or conducting police work, state law, local law, and other related laws may pertain to the same actions, compounding penalties. In New Jersey, interfering with police work can come in many forms, though typically not by mere words. So, when you witness an arrest of your friend or spouse and insist the arrested party is innocent, you are probably not guilty of interfering with the administration of justice without other actions accompanying the words. You must prevent the officer, prosecutor, or state from doing their job, and the officer must be legally doing their job to commit the crime.
What Crimes Apply to Interference with the Criminal Justice Process in New Jersey?
If a police officer detains and then attempts to arrest you, you must cooperate and obey the officer’s legal commands. Resisting arrest is a serious crime. The New Jersey criminal code defines it as preventing a law enforcement member from making an arrest under N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2. If you resist arrest, you risk a disorderly persons offense conviction unless you resisted arrest by fleeing. Then, it is a fourth degree indictable crime. For a disorderly persons offense, you might spend up to six months in jail and pay a $1,000.00 fine. A fourth degree crime, on the other hand, is an indictable crime. Thus, the potential sentence for a fourth degree crime is 18 months in prison with a $10,000.00 fine.
Interfering with police work is a far more severe crime if an officer’s safety is at risk. So, if an arrestee threatened or otherwise endangered an officer, the charge rises to a third degree crime. For example, attempting to grab an officer’s gun while they cuff you is at least a third degree criminal charge. You can also be charged with pointing a firearm at a police officer, which comes with its own penalties.
Defending a Resisting Arrest Case
Of course, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you intended to prevent an arrest when you struggled while the police handcuffed you and put you in the back of a police car. If your struggle resulted from the painfully tight cuffs, the prosecutor might have difficulty proving you resisted arrest. The prosecutor must also prove you knew of the arrest. If you did not think you were under arrest, you could not resist arrest. For example, a police officer can detain individuals by asking them questions, whether in a vehicle or on foot.
And while a person being questioned by an officer may not feel free to walk away, they may not be under arrest, which typically involves more restraint on the detained party, such as putting handcuffs on the individual. An arresting officer could announce the person is under arrest or read them their Miranda rights. But just saying, “Come with me,” the officer may not be clear about an arrest, and an individual accused of resisting arrest may not have known they were not entitled to refuse to follow the officer.
Eluding an Officer
One alternative type of resisting arrest is eluding, which occurs when an accused intentionally drives away from a police officer’s apparent attempt to pull them over (N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2b). Eluding is also a third degree crime unless you endanger others’ lives in fleeing. Then, it is a second degree crime. So, the difference between driving away calmly when a police officer turns on their lights to pull you over and racing away from the police while reckless driving is the difference between a third and second degree eluding. The danger to others on the road elevates the crime. Third degree crimes carry a three to five-year prison sentence, and second degree crime sentences rise to a maximum of ten years with a presumption that a conviction means incarceration.
Hindering Apprehension or Prosecution
Now, if the officer approached a parked vehicle and signaled the driver to roll down the window, the driver who refuses to roll down the window may have committed another type of offense. One common offense against those accused of interfering with the legal process in a criminal case is hindering apprehension or prosecution. Hindering a law enforcement officer from conducting their duties is against the law (N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2). One hinders an officer’s work by getting in the way of an officer attempting to detain, apprehend, investigate, prosecute, convict, or punish an individual breaking the law.
While hindering is typically a disorderly persons offense, it can also be a third degree or fourth degree indictable offense depending on the degree of crime that the defendant is attempting to hinder the investigation or prosecution of. Also, when the accused is a spouse who obstructs the officer from investigating, detaining, arresting, or pursuing the accused’s spouse for committing a first or second degree crime, the state may charge the obstructing spouse with a third degree crime.
Obstructing the Administration of Justice
Like hindering, obstructing the administration of justice includes any attempt or actions to interfere with law enforcement carrying out their duties. So, examples of obstructing include hiding a person the police are trying to track down or helping the person escape by giving them aid, for example, money, disguises, and weapons. An accused might also destroy evidence, influence a witness, or warn the fugitive of an imminent arrest. Or they may threaten, force, deceive or intimidate another person into preventing another from being arrested or assist them from reaping the benefits of their crime. They can also lie or mislead authorities investigating a fraud crime. Obstructing is a disorderly persons offense unless the accused succeeded in interfering with an investigation of a crime, which raises the offense to a fourth degree crime.
In addition to state laws forbidding interfering with police work, local municipalities may have their ordinances penalizing one who resists arrest, with separate penalties and fines.
Accused of Interfering with the Process in a Criminal Case? Call our Edison Office Today
Whether the police arrested you for resisting arrest, eluding, hindering, obstructing the administration of justice, or others criminal charges, you are going to need an experienced criminal defense attorney. Convictions for any of these charges may result in a jail or prison sentence, plus fines, a criminal record, and a major impact on your life. Our tactical criminal defense lawyers have successfully defended clients charged with interfering with law enforcement duties across Middlesex County, such as New Brunswick, Edison, South Brunswick, Carteret, Piscataway, East Brunswick, and Woodbridge. We can help ensure the state does not overstep their boundaries and that you are treated fairly under the law with the best possible resolution.
Whether it means getting your charges dismissed for lack of evidence, bargaining with the prosecutor for lowering the charges, helping you gain admission to a program like Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) to reach a dismissal, or fighting the state at trial, our team can serve as your most vital asset in getting the protection you need in the judicial system. By hiring lawyers such as ours, you are able to proceed confidently, flanked by professional defense counsel, and given the armor you need for a fair fight against the state. Contact our office in Edison 24/7 at (732) 659-9600 to talk through the details of your case with an attorney who can help. We offer free consultations.