Sometimes police arrests do not go smoothly, and people get hurt or die while in police custody. With this issue gaining national attention, it is not uncommon for people to pull out cell phones and start recording when the police try to arrest their friends, family members, or even strangers. Recording the police interaction or trying to protest the arrest of another person, however, sometimes results in the person’s arrest for obstruction or resisting arrest.
In New York State, it is unlawful for a person to impair, obstruct, or prevent a police officer from carrying out an official function of his job. A person who prevents or obstructs the police officer can be charged with obstructing governmental administration, which is a Class A misdemeanor. The obstruction does not have to be physical, and intimidation and other independently unlawful acts aimed at interfering with police officers carrying out functions of their jobs can lead to the charge.
What type of conduct constitutes obstructing governmental administration is often far from clear. The police may have a broader definition of what constitutes obstructing, and may arrest you for conduct that will later be determined to have been legal. Recording police officers in a public place while they arrest someone may not be illegal, but if it is done in a way that prevents the officers from completing the arrest, it can be the basis for an obstructing charge. Yelling threats or other threatening behavior directed at police can also be considered intimidation enough to charge a person with obstructing.
If the interference with the arrest reaches a certain point, the person causing the interference may be charged with resisting arrest. Resisting arrest applies to situations in which a person prevents police officers from arresting him, as well as in situations where the person prevents police officers from arresting another person. It is more common for the person being arrested to be charged with resisting arrest for doing things like refusing to put his hands behind his back, or moving his arms about to prevent officers from handcuffing him. One defense to a resisting charge is that the arrest was unlawful, for example if the police did not have probable cause for the arrest. Note that simply running from the police is not itself sufficient probable cause for an arrest. A good criminal defense lawyer can challenge a bad arrest and defeat a charge of resisting arrest.
Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are in a situation where another person is about to be arrested, you should try to be as calm as possible and not do anything that could be perceived as interfering with the arrest. If you are arrested or cited for obstruction of governmental administration or resisting arrest following an encounter with the police, you should contact experienced Syracuse criminal defense attorney George F. Hildebrandt for a consultation.