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The People of the State of New York, Appellant v. Raymond Michael

New York Supreme and/or Appellate Courts SUPREME COURT, APPELLATE TERM, SECOND DEPARTMENT, 9th and 10th JUDICIAL DISTRICTS


December 24, 2012

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, APPELLANT,
v.
RAYMOND MICHAEL, RESPONDENT.

Appeal from an order of the District Court of Nassau County, First District (Susan T. Kluewer, J.), dated September 19, 2011.

People v Michael (Raymond)

Appellate Term, Second Department

Published by New York State Law Reporting Bureau pursuant to Judiciary Law § 431.

This opinion is uncorrected and will not be published in the printed Official Reports.

Decided on December 24, 2012

PRESENT: MOLIA, J.P., NICOLAI and IANNACCI, JJ

The order granted defendant's motion for a trial order of dismissal, following a jury verdict convicting defendant of obstructing governmental administration in the second degree, and dismissed the accusatory instrument.

ORDERED that the order is reversed, on the law, defendant's motion for a trial order of dismissal is denied, the accusatory instrument and jury verdict are reinstated, and the matter is remitted to the District Court for sentencing.

The People appeal from an order which, following a jury verdict convicting defendant of obstructing governmental administration in the second degree (Penal Law § 195.05), granted defendant's motion for a trial order of dismissal, and dismissed the accusatory instrument.

A person violates Penal Law § 195.05 when he or she "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 lawful act." At the jury trial, the evidence established that, after being arrested for driving while intoxicated and transported to Nassau County's Central Testing Section (CTS) for further investigation and arrest processing, defendant became loud, agitated and verbally abusive. After declining to submit to a chemical test of his blood alcohol content, defendant was committed to the custody of a police officer for the purpose of offering defendant another opportunity to be tested, to videotape defendant's refusal should that be the case, and to administer physical coordination tests. At the commencement of that process, which occurred in the testing area of the facility, defendant asked to use a telephone located outside of the testing area, which request was granted. As defendant and the officer were returning to the testing area, defendant announced that he intended to depart from the facility and began walking towards a door which, defendant apparently believed, led to the outside. The officer placed a hand on defendant's shoulder to restrain defendant, whereupon defendant forcefully removed the officer's hand, dropped to the floor, and kicked the officer's feet out from under him, causing the officer to strike a wall and to fall to the floor. There ensued a physical struggle which ended when other officers arrived to separate them and to handcuff defendant.

The District Court reserved decision on defendant's motion for a trial order of dismissal (CPL 290.10 [1]), made after the defense had rested. Following the jury's verdict convicting defendant of the charged offense, the District Court granted defendant's motion on the ground that the People had failed to prove that defendant had obstructed an official function being exercised by the officer at the time of the altercation.

Penal Law § 195.05 is construed broadly to ensure that a police officer "is protected in the performance of an official function of whatever kind" (People v Coffaro, 52 NY2d 932, 934 [1981]). A police officer's "official function" is not limited to the parameters of the officer's particular duty assignment at a given moment. A police officer's official duties are varied (see People v De Bour, 40 NY2d 210, 218 [1976]), and in a detention facility, it is every officer's "official duty" to ensure "internal security within the . . . facilit[y]" and "to take appropriate action to ensure the safety of . . . personnel and to prevent escape" (Bell v Wolfish, 441 US 520, 547 [1979]; see also People v Hall, 10 NY3d 303, 309 [2008] [noting that a local police station "surely" is the sort of "facility" contemplated by Bell]). The CTS officer was exercising his official duties with respect to evaluating a person under arrest for driving while intoxicated when defendant attempted to depart the police station, resisted the officer's efforts physically to control defendant, and assaulted the officer. Such conduct obstructed the officer's official functions with respect to the evaluation process, the maintenance of order, and the prevention of escape, thereby constituting a violation of the statute (see e.g. People v Hope, 67 AD2d 754, 754-755 [1979]; People v Wheeler, 36 AD2d 549 [1971]; People v Decree, 14 Misc 3d 8, 9 [App Term, 9th & 10th Jud Dists 2006]; People v Hasenflue, 169 Misc 2d 766, 769 [Sup Ct, Ulster County 1996]).

Accordingly, the order is reversed, defendant's motion for a trial order of dismissal is denied, the accusatory instrument and jury verdict are reinstated, and the matter is remitted to the District Court for sentencing.

Molia, J.P., Nicolai and Iannacci, JJ., concur. Decision Date: December 24, 2012

20121224

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