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OBSTRUCTING (N.J.S.A. 2C:29-1 model jury charge

OBSTRUCTING ADMINISTRATION OF LAW OR OTHERGOVERNMENTAL FUNCTION(N.J.S.A. 2C:29-1)

[Where crime occurred on or after April 28, 2000]model jury charge

[Countof] [T]he indictment charges the defendant with obstructing the administration of law or other governmental function. That section of our statutes provides that

A person commits an offense if he purposely obstructs, impairs, or perverts the administration of law or other governmental function or prevents or attempts to prevent a public servant from lawfully performing an official function by means of flight, intimidation, force, violence, or physical interference or obstacle, or by means of any independently unlawful act.In order to find the defendant guilty of this offense, the State must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

(1) that the defendant

(a)committed an act of flight, intimidation, force, violence, or physical interference or obstacle

OR

(b)committed an unlawful act[WHERE APPLICABLE:as charged in count of the indictment];

(2) that the act was committed for the purpose of

(a) obstructing, impairing, or perverting the administration of law or other

governmental function

OR

(b) preventing a public servant from lawfully performing an official function; and


(3) that in committing the act, the defendant did [OR attempted to]

(a) obstruct, impair, or pervert the administration of law or other governmental function

OR

(b) prevent a public servant from lawfully performing an official function.

The first element that the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt is that the defendant committed

(a)an act of flight, intimidation, force, violence, or physical interference or obstacle. In other words, the State must prove that the defendant affirmatively did something to interfere or place an obstacle to prevent the public servant from performing an official function.[1]Specifically, the State alleges that the defendant committed the act of.

OR

(b)an unlawful act: in other words, an act that is, without regard to its purpose to obstruct justice, already declared illegal.[2]In this case, the State alleges that the defendant committed the unlawful act of. [CHARGE IF APPLICABLE: I have already defined the elements of that crime (or will define the elements of that crime) in my instructions concerning count.[3]] You cannot find the defendant guilty of obstructing the administration of law or other governmental function unless you findhim/herguilty beyond a reasonable doubt of having committed this unlawful act [OR the crime charged in count].

The second element that the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt is that the defendant committed the unlawful act(s) for the purpose of [obstructing, impairing, or perverting the administration of law or other governmental function] OR [preventing a public servant from lawfully performing an official function].

A person acts purposely with respect to the nature ofhis/herconduct or a result thereof if it ishis/herconscious object to engage in conduct of that nature or to cause such a result. A person acts purposely with respect to attendant circumstances ifhe/sheis aware of the existence of such circumstances orhe/shebelieves or hopes that they exist.

Purpose is a condition of the mind that cannot be seen and that can be determined only by inferences from conduct, words or acts. A state of mind is rarely susceptible of direct proof but must ordinarily be inferred from the facts. Therefore, it is not necessary that the State produce witnesses to testify that an accused said thathe/shehad a certain state of mind whenhe/sheengaged in a particular act. It is within your power to find that such proof has been furnished beyond a reasonable doubt by inference, which may arise from the nature of defendants acts and conduct, from all thathe/shesaid and did at the particular time and place, and from all surrounding circumstances.

The third element that the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt is that in committing the act, the defendant did (OR attempted to[4])

(a)obstruct, impair, or pervert the administration of law or the official governmental function of.

OR

(b)prevent a public servant from lawfully performing an official function. A public servant means any officer or employee of government. In this case, the State alleges that the defendant prevented (or attempted to prevent) a[choose applicable title set forth inN.J.S.A. 2C:27-1g] from lawfully performing the official function of.

[CHARGE WHEN APPLICABLE:You cannot find the defendant guilty of this charge ifhe/sheand a public servant engaged in a private altercation that happens to occur at a time when the victim is engaged in official duties.[5]]

If the State has failed to prove any element of this offense beyond a reasonable doubt, then you must find the defendant not guilty. If the State has proven each element of this offense beyond a reasonable doubt, then you must find the defendant guilty.

[WHEN GRADING OF THE OFFENSE IS AT ISSUE, CHARGE AS FOLLOWS]

If you find the defendant guilty of obstructing the administration of law or other governmental function, you must go on and determine whether the State has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant has obstructed the investigation or detection of a crime, or prosecution of a person for a crime. In this case, the State alleges that the defendant obstructed the identification, detection, or prosecution offor the crime of. If you find that the State has proven this allegation beyond a reasonable doubt, then you must find the defendant guilty of obstruction of the investigation or detection of a crime, or prosecution of a person for a crime. If the State has failed to prove this allegation beyond a reasonable doubt, you must find the defendant not guilty of obstructing the investigation or detection of a crime, or prosecution of a person for a crime, but guilty of obstructing the administration of law or other governmental function.



[1]State v. Berlow, 284N.J. Super. 356, 360 (Law Div. 1995).

[2]IICommentary, Final Report of the New Jersey Criminal Law Revision Commission,N.J.S.A. 2C:29-1, comment 4, page 282 (1971).See alsoState v. Perlstein, 206N.J. Super. 215, 222 (App. Div. 1980).

[3]This alternative instruction is included for use in those cases in which the States theory is that the only act of obstruction or interference the defendant is alleged to have committed is also a crime that is the subject of a separate count in the indictment on which the defendant is being tried.See,for instance,State v. Branch, 155N.J. 317, 328 (1998) (referring to Model Criminal Jury Charge on Felony Murder Slayer Participant [January 27, 1997]);State v. Grey, 147N.J. 4, 17 (1996).

[4]When an attempt to prevent a public servant from lawfully performing an official function is alleged, or when attempt to commit the obstructing act is charged pursuant toN.J.S.A. 2C:5-1, include the Model Jury Charge on the definition of Attempt.

[5]1971Commentary,supra, comment 3, pages 281-282. A similar instruction should be given if the case raises the issue of whether the defendant failed to perform a legal duty other than an official duty, or [committed] any other means of avoiding compliance with the law without affirmative interference with governmental functions, which are specifically excluded from the scope ofN.J.S.A. 2C:29-1.


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Ken Vercammen articles

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