Resisting arrest and obstruction of justice are similar crimes that are often charged alongside each other. New Jersey’s obstruction of justice law is also a bit different than the laws of many states, and it overlaps more with resisting arrest than many of those statutes would. If you were arrested for resisting arrest or obstruction of justice in Atlantic City or anywhere else in New Jersey, it is important to understand these charges. The Atlantic City resisting arrest lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych offer free consultations to help you understand your charges and how your case might proceed. Call us today to schedule a free consultation.
Obstruction of Justice vs. Resisting Arrest in NJ
Resisting arrest and obstruction of justice are found next to each other in the NJ Code of Criminal Justice. N.J.S.A. § 2C:29-1 is the statute for obstruction of justice, while § 2C:23-2 is the law against resisting arrest. One basic difference between resisting arrest and obstruction of justice is that resisting arrest is usually charged for resisting your own arrest and obstruction of justice is charged for stopping someone else’s arrest, but this distinction does not always work in New Jersey. There are also other important differences between these laws.
Obstruction of Justice
Under § 2C:29-1, obstruction of justice is the crime of preventing any “administration of law or other governmental function.” Alternatively, this crime also applies in situations where you try to stop a government official from doing their job through “flight, intimidation, force, violence, or physical interference or obstacle, or by means of any independently unlawful act.”
Under this law, obstruction of justice firmly applies to a situation where you physically block a police officer from arresting someone else, but it applies to other situations as well. Obstruction charges can come from many situations, including the following examples:
- Hiding or destroying evidence
- Pulling a fire alarm to clear out a government building
- Blocking or obstructing a police car
- Refusing to provide ID to a cop
- Lying during a criminal investigation or grand jury investigation, under some circumstances
- Preventing police from accessing information or executing a search warrant
Since resisting arrest is an “independently unlawful act,” you can potentially face obstruction of justice charges for any instance of resisting arrest that prevents an officer from performing their duties.
Resisting arrest applies in much more specific circumstances. N.J.S.A. § 2C:29-2 includes not only charges for resisting arrest but also charges for “eluding” – which refers to running away from police. Under this statute, there are 3 ways to be arrested for eluding or resisting arrest:
- “[P]urposely” preventing “a law enforcement officer from effecting an arrest.”
- Preventing an arrest “by flight” (i.e., running or driving away from a police officer).
- Using force or violence against an officer or creating a risk of injury while doing either of the above.
These statutes use the phrase “an arrest,” which means that they can actually apply to another person’s arrest, so that the distinction between resisting arrest and obstruction is much less clear. Essentially, the key difference is that resisting arrest only applies to arrests, while obstruction charges can apply to much broader situation.
Penalties for Resisting Arrest and Obstruction in New Jersey
Resisting arrest and obstruction carry different penalties depending on how they are committed. These offenses are either “disorderly persons offenses” or “fourth degree crimes.”
A disorderly persons offense in New Jersey is similar to a misdemeanor and holds a maximum penalty of $1,000 and up to 6 months in jail. A fourth degree crime is the lowest grade of felony and carries a potential of up to 18 months in prison and fines up to $10,000.
Obstruction charges are graded depending on what the defendant obstructs. If the police are investigating a crime, the obstruction offense is a fourth degree crime. This should only apply to investigations of crimes, meaning fourth degree crimes or higher – not disorderly persons offenses. Any other obstruction charge is a disorderly persons offense.
The basic offense of resisting arrest is a disorderly persons offense, but if there is force or violence against a police officer or a substantial risk of injury, the crime is upgraded to a fourth degree crime. In cases where the defendant resists arrest by driving away from police officers (potentially risking a high-speed chase or low-speed chase), the crime is upgraded to a third degree crime. This carries the potential of 3-5 years in prison and fines up to $15,000, plus a driver’s license suspension.
Committing another crime as part of your obstruction of justice charges can also lead to additional charges and penalties for that crime. Similarly, the crime you were arrested for has its own penalties, and your resisting arrest can be taken into account as part of sentencing on those charges. Strangely enough, you can face penalties for resisting arrest by itself, even if you face no other charges for which you were arrested.
Atlantic City Resisting Arrest and Obstruction of Justice Lawyers Offering Free Consultations
If you or a loved one was arrested for obstruction of justice or charged with resisting arrest in the Atlantic City area, contact our Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers. Our attorneys handle disorderly conduct charges and other related offenses, including resisting arrest or obstruction charges. To schedule a free consultation on your case, contact our attorneys today at (609) 616-4956.