Recently, many protesters in New York City have been arrested and given Desk Appearance Tickets charging them with a violation of Penal Law 195.05, also called Obstructing Governmental Administration. “Obstructing Governmental Administration,” (colloquially referred to as “O.G.A.”) is a very commonly charged crime in New York. While the penal law title is self-explanatory, the application of the charge might be broader than you think. Essentially, any act of intimidation or a physical or independently unlawful act which is committed with intent to obstruct governmental administration falls within the ambit of the statute, which lies in New York Penal Law § 195.05, and states as follows:
§ 195.05 Obstructing governmental administration in the second degree.
A person is guilty of obstructing governmental administration when he intentionally obstructs, impairs or perverts the administration of law or other governmental function or prevents or attempts to prevent a public servant from performing an official function, by means of intimidation, physical force or interference, or by means of any independently unlawful act, or by means of interfering, whether or not physical force is involved, with radio, telephone, television or other telecommunications systems owned or operated by the state, or a county, city, town, village, fire district or emergency medical service or by means of releasing a dangerous animal under circumstances evincing the actor’s intent that the animal obstruct governmental administration.
Obstructing governmental administration is a class A misdemeanor.
“O.G.A.” covers a broad range of conduct; cases where convictions for O.G.A have been upheld include situations where defendants pulled the emergency brake on a subway car without any valid reason to do so, refused to move through a metal detector at a county courthouse in a manner which prevented others from entering, or ran on the “set” of an undercover “buy-and-bust” operation after being warned to leave and shouting that the police were present. While the statue requires “intimidation, or a physical or independently unlawful act,” merely refusing to cooperate with a police officer by giving information, or failing to turn over a driver’s license or registration when asked to do so will not fall within the ambit of the statute (although it might subject the actor to liability under the Vehicle and Traffic Law). Essentially, any act committed with the intent to frustrate the purpose or execution of an official acting in a lawful capacity can qualify, like smacking a summons book out of a police officer’s hand to prevent him or her from writing a ticket, for example.
Obstructing Governmental Administration seems to be committed most when street encounters between police officers and civilians go wrong. There are two scenarios where the charge is applied with the most frequency, the first being where civilians try to stop police officers from placing third parties under arrest, either by standing in between officers and the third parties, or by assaulting police officers and/or jumping on them to foil the detention (which also subjects the intervening person to the additional charge of resisting arrest, also a class “A” misdemeanor). Charges can be elevated to a felony if a person uses pepper spray or mace on the officer, or causes physical injury to the officer.
The second common scenario involves the swallowing of drugs in order to prevent officers from recovering them. While no actual “force” is used by the act of swallowing a bag or vial, courts have held that swallowing drugs in an attempt to avoid arrest for drug possession constitutes O.G.A., as well as the crime of “Tampering.” In either of these situation, the additional act of attempting to prevent the police or official actors from discharging their duties usually serves no purpose other than to escalate the situation, and results in additional charges for the police to bring to the District Attorney’s Office when these cases are being written up.
If you are charged with the crime of Obstruction of Governmental Administration, you should not hesitate to retain an experienced criminal attorney immediately. A conviction for O.G.A. results in the incurrence of a permanent criminal record, and is punishable by up to one year in jail.
“New York Defense Attorney Explains the Crime of “Obstructing Governmental Administration.”