Obstructing Governmental Administration Case Dismissed as Legally Insufficient
Partner Don Murray won a legal victory for his client in Queens County today based on written motions related to the the failure of the Government to properly draft the criminal court complaint.
Mr. Murray’s client was charged with violating Penal Law Section 190.05, Obstructing Governmental Administration, an A misdemeanor carrying a potential maximum punishment of one year in jail.
As a general rule, Judges have very little power to dismiss charges against people charged with crimes. Judges only have the power to dismiss charges in the very narrow circumstances where there is some legal, not factual, problem with the Government’s case. In this particular case, Mr. Murray noticed that the criminal court complaint explained very little about how his client was supposed to have committed the crime of “obstructing governmental administration”. In fact, the complaint simply read, in relevant part, that “while investigating a parked jeep cherokee vehicle, which involved the apprehended others [XXXX], the defendant [XXXX] attempted to enter the driver’s seat of said vehicle.”
Mr. Murray made the argument, that this complaint was so weak by way of explaining the offense his client supposedly committed, that the complaint failed even to meet the very low standard of acceptability allowed by law. Under our law, a criminal complaint need not spell out in excruciating detail everything about a crime, but it still must allege enough facts so that if those facts were all true, the defendant would be guilty of the offense.
In this instance, there is just too little information to know one way or another whether Mr. Murray’s client had committed acts that obstructed governmental administration as that phrase is defined by the law. It is far from clear how “attempting to enter a parked vehicle” obstructed anything or whether Mr. Murray’s client had been previously told not to enter the vehicle, or indeed whether any police were within a mile of the vehicle when the events occurred.
Mr. Murray prepared and filed a well researched memorandum of law making his case on behalf of his client, and the Judge today agreed, dismissing the charges.