State v. Manning

CourtNew Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
Writing for the CourtANTELL
Citation370 A.2d 499,146 N.J.Super. 589
PartiesSTATE of New Jersey, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Robert MANNING, Defendant-Appellant.
Decision Date28 January 1977

Page 589

146 N.J.Super. 589
370 A.2d 499
STATE of New Jersey, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
Robert MANNING, Defendant-Appellant.
Superior Court of New Jersey,
Appellate Division.
Submitted Sept. 28, 1976.
Decided Jan. 28, 1977.

Page 590

Boardman & Epstein, Saddle Brook, for defendant-appellant (Barry D. Epstein, Saddle Brook, on the brief).

C. Judson Hamlin, Middlesex County Prosecutor, for plaintiff-respondent (Frank H. Graves, Asst. Prosecutor, on the brief).

Before Judges LYNCH, MILMED and ANTELL.

The majority opinion was delivered by

LYNCH, P.J.A.D.

This is an appeal from a judgment of the Middlesex County Court which affirmed, on De novo trial, a judgment of the Woodbridge Municipal Court. Both lower courts found defendant guilty of interfering with a State Trooper's performance of his duties, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2A:170--29(2)(b). The charge and conviction arose out of the following facts.

Page 591

On November 14, 1975, at about 8 p.m., Trooper Kenna, while proceeding northbound on the New Jersey Turnpike at 70 m.p.h., observed a 1973 Chevrolet approaching from his rear at a high rate of speed. The car passed that of the trooper. He followed and ultimately stopped it and ordered the driver to pull over to the right shoulder. The trooper approached the [370 A.2d 500] driver, Robert Wald, detected an odor of alcohol and asked Wald to leave the vehicle so that he could conduct some tests to determine the driver's condition. The officer and Wald went to the rear of the car where Wald was questioned. Defendant, Wald's passenger, got out and joined them at the rear of the car. Trooper Kenna requested defendant to return to his seat in the Chevrolet so that he could talk to the driver with whom he could better deal on a one-on-one basis. He also expressed concern for the safety of all because an oncoming car might strike someone standing on the shoulder of the road. Despite the fact that the trooper three times requested defendant to get back into the car, defendant refused and said 'lock me up.'

The trooper testified that he would have conducted a more formal and thorough investigation of the driver's condition had he been left alone by defendant and that defendant's actions interfered with his further investigation. The Municipal Court judge found as a fact that the trooper had to cut short his investigation because of defendant's actions. In affirming the conviction, the County Court judge found as a fact that defendant interfered with the lawful exercise of police duty by the trooper.

On appeal it is defendant's contention that the investigation of the driver's condition had actually been concluded inasmuch as the trooper had already determined that the driver was not intoxicated. For that reason, defendant argues, there was no interference with the investigation. We disagree. The trooper was following routine procedures in attempting to interview the driver to determine whether he was under the influence of intoxicating liquors. It was perfectly reasonable for him to require that he be able to interrogate

Page 592

and observe the driver without any distraction from defendant. It was also in the interest of safety for defendant to remain in the car.

Our dissenting colleague cites several cases 1 presumably in support of his position that N.J.S.A. 2A:170--29(2) 'interdicts only conduct which, in a literal sense, intentionally impedes another's right of free physical movement' and, quoting from State v. Smith, 46 N.J. 510, 521, 218 A.2d 147, 153 (1966), Cert. den. 385 U.S. 838, 87 S.Ct. 85, 17 L.Ed.2d 71 (1966), that the statute 'proscribes conduct which holds the promise of a disorder' involving a breach of the peace.

State v. Profaci, 56 N.J. 346, 266 A.2d 579 (1970), as the dissent says, dealt with that part of the statute which concerned the use of loud and offensive language. In obeisance to the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech the requirement of possible breach of peace has been added in order to constitute a violation of the statute. Here we do not have a charge of indecent language where such addendum is needed or appropriate to sustain the conviction.

Although the cases cited in the dissent involve physical interference with officers or others (State v. Furino, 85 N.J.Super. 345, 204 A.2d 718 (App.Div.1964); State v. Smith, 46 N.J. 510, 218 A.2d 147 (1966), Cert. den. 385 U.S. 838, 87 S.Ct. 85, 17 L.Ed.2d 71 (1966); State v. Guillotte, 10 N.J.Super. 502, 77 A.2d 65 (Cty.Ct.1950)) none of them, except perhaps State v. Taylor, 121 N.J.Super. 395, 297 A.2d 216 (Cty.Ct.1972), Hold that the statute is applicable only where there is conduct which impedes another's physical' movement or 'which holds the promise of a disorder' involving a breach of the peace. We agree with the [370 A.2d 501] result in Taylor, though not with the court's analysis (at 398--399, 297 A.2d at 217) of the word 'interfere' as used in the statute.

Page 593

In Haywood v. Ryan, 85 N.J.L. 116, 88 A. 820 (Sup.Ct.1913), the court held that there was no testimony whatever that defendant obstructed or interfered with other persons in any manner. As the court said: '* * * on the contrary all that appears is that he was proceeding along the sidewalk of a public highway, without obstructing or interfering with any person beyond the extent to which he occupied the sidewalk.' It was because the charge was directed solely to impeding of physical movement, and not any other kind of interference, as here, that the court made the statement that the statute 'is intended to apply only to such as shall, by their acts, intentionally obstruct or interfere with the movement of persons lawfully on the street.' State v. Guillotte, supra, was likewise directed solely to an issue as to physical obstruction and interference with persons on a sidewalk. State v. Furino, supra, also involved physical interference with the police officers and was not concerned with other kinds of interference such as is involved here. However, in that case the court defined the three verbs, 'obstruct', 'molest' and 'interfere', in N.J.S.A. 2A:170--29, as follows:

The three verbs are definite, clear and distinct, readily understood and employed in the every-day speech of the man on the street. Refined definition is unnecessary. 'Obstruct' means to object or come in the way of; to hinder from action; to impede. 'Molest' means to interfere with or meddle with unwarrantably. And 'interfere' is defined as to enter into or take a part in the concern of others; to intermeddle, intervene. Webster's New International Dictionary (2d ed., 1948); and see 3 Wharton's Criminal Law (Anderson ed. 1957), § 1284, p. 634. (85 N.J.Super. at 348, 204 A.2d at 719; emphasis supplied).

Clearly, then, the definition of 'interfere' is not restricted to physical interference, for it is defined 'as to enter into or take part in the concern of others; to intermeddle, intervene.' Here the question of the driver's condition Vis-a -vis his being under the influence of, or impaired by, alcohol was the concern of the state trooper. The proofs support the conclusion that defendant was taking a part

Page 594

and meddling in that investigation which was none of his concern. In State v. Taylor, supra, the court defined 'interfere' as

* * * to check, hamper, hinder, disturb intervene, intermeddle, interpose, enter into, or take part in the concerns of others. 'Molest' means to disturb, interfere with, or annoy; inconvenience. American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, (1st ed. 1969, 1970). (121 N.J.Super. at 398, 297 A.2d at 217)

Again, the proofs here support the conclusion that defendant hampered, disturbed, intervened and intermeddled in the concern of the trooper in the performance on his duties.

In State v. Smith, supra, the court defined the statutory term 'obstruct' to include hindering, citing State v. Furino, supra, 85 N.J.Super. at 348, 204 A.2d 718, and added, 'and of course 'interfere' does not require a total frustration.' (46 N.J. at 520, 218 A.2d at 152).

The dissent's quotation from State v. Smith, 46 N.J. at 521, 218 A.2d at 153, to the effect that the statute 'proscribes conduct which holds the promise of a disorder' involving a breach of the peace, is taken out of context and is misleading as to what Chief Justice Weintraub meant in that case. The full context reads:

Defendants say the statute is invalid on its face because it does not require proof of a breach of the peace. We do not understand the police power to be so limited. In any event the statute proscribes conduct which holds the promise of a disorder of that kind, and we have [370 A.2d 502] no doubt the State may deal with it punitively on that account. (Emphasis supplied)

We conceive that a fair reading on that language indicates that there need not be proof of a breach of the peace to constitute the offense, though conduct of that kind is Included in the proscription of the statute. The quoted language, in our opinion, does not indicate that other types of interference, not including a threat of breach of the peace, is excluded from such proscription.

Page 595

The dissent construes our opinion as being based on 'the premise that the policeman can convert the character of an event from nonpunishable to punishment by proclamation alone.' The 'event' is described as defendant's lack of aggression, intrusiveness and the absence of 'threatening or provocative gestures or statements' on his part prior to the trooper's request that he go back into the car--and that request is the 'proclamation' to which the dissent refers. The argument begs the question, I.e., whether defendant interfered with the trooper's performance of his duties in investigating whether the driver of the car was under the influence of, or impaired by, alcohol. And the citation of State v. Caez, 81 N.J.Super. 315, 195 A.2d 496 (App.Div.1963), is, in our opinion, irrelevant. It concerned an anti-loitering ordinance...

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15 practice notes
  • State v. Lashinsky
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • July 23, 1979
    ...International Dictionary, (2d ed. 1948); and see 3 Wharton's Criminal Law (Anderson ed. 1957) § 1284, p. 634. Accord, State v. Manning, 146 N.J.Super. 589, 593, 370 A.2d 499 (App.Div.1977); see State v. Smith, 46 N.J. 510, 520, 218 A.2d 147, Cert. Den. 385 U.S. 838, 87 S.Ct. 85, 17 [404 A.2......
  • Dempsey v. People, No. 04SC362.
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • August 22, 2005
    ...in any appreciable degree to hamper or impede the police in the performance of their duty as they saw it." See State v. Manning, 146 N.J.Super. 589, 370 A.2d 499, 503 (App.Div.1977); see also Brown v. City of Danville, 44 Va.App. 586, 606 S.E.2d 523, 529 (2004) (holding obstruction does not......
  • State v. Hookstra, No. A-00-791.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Nebraska
    • May 22, 2001
    ...on and away from the area of a crime without impermissibly infringing upon the citizen's First Amendment rights"); State v. Manning, 146 N.J.Super. 589, 591, 370 A.2d 499, 500 (1977) (under New Jersey statute penalizing interference with police work, court found it "perfectly reasonable" fo......
  • Turner v. County of Washoe, No. CV-S-90-706-PMP (LRL).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. District of Nevada
    • February 20, 1991
    ...a traffic stop amounted to obstructing a policy officer in 759 F. Supp. 635 the performance of his duties), and State v. Manning, 146 N.J.Super. 589, 370 A.2d 499 (1977) (defendant guilty of interfering with police officer when he refused to return to his car during a traffic stop, even tho......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
15 cases
  • State v. Lashinsky
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • July 23, 1979
    ...International Dictionary, (2d ed. 1948); and see 3 Wharton's Criminal Law (Anderson ed. 1957) § 1284, p. 634. Accord, State v. Manning, 146 N.J.Super. 589, 593, 370 A.2d 499 (App.Div.1977); see State v. Smith, 46 N.J. 510, 520, 218 A.2d 147, Cert. Den. 385 U.S. 838, 87 S.Ct. 85, 17 [404 A.2......
  • Dempsey v. People, No. 04SC362.
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • August 22, 2005
    ...in any appreciable degree to hamper or impede the police in the performance of their duty as they saw it." See State v. Manning, 146 N.J.Super. 589, 370 A.2d 499, 503 (App.Div.1977); see also Brown v. City of Danville, 44 Va.App. 586, 606 S.E.2d 523, 529 (2004) (holding obstruction does not......
  • State v. Hookstra, No. A-00-791.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Nebraska
    • May 22, 2001
    ...on and away from the area of a crime without impermissibly infringing upon the citizen's First Amendment rights"); State v. Manning, 146 N.J.Super. 589, 591, 370 A.2d 499, 500 (1977) (under New Jersey statute penalizing interference with police work, court found it "perfectly reasonable" fo......
  • Turner v. County of Washoe, No. CV-S-90-706-PMP (LRL).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. District of Nevada
    • February 20, 1991
    ...a traffic stop amounted to obstructing a policy officer in 759 F. Supp. 635 the performance of his duties), and State v. Manning, 146 N.J.Super. 589, 370 A.2d 499 (1977) (defendant guilty of interfering with police officer when he refused to return to his car during a traffic stop, even tho......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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