On March 12, 2019, the New Jersey Supreme Court decided State v. Andrew J. Fede (A-53-17) (079997). In this case, the Cliffside Park Police responded to the defendant’s home after receiving a domestic violence call.
The defendant had his door locked with a chain and refused to unlock it for the police. The police eventually broke the lock and charged the defendant with obstruction of the administration of the law under N.J.S.A. 2C:29-1(a), which is a disorderly persons offense.
The defendant was found guilty in the Cliffside Park Municipal Court and the ruling was upheld by the Bergen County Superior Court and the New Jersey Appellate Division.
However, the New Jersey Supreme Court reversed the ruling of the Appellate Division and vacated the conviction. The Court ruled that while the police may enter a home without a warrant under the emergency-aid doctrine in a domestic violence situation, the defendant in this case did not purposely obstruct the police. In other words, the defendant’s refusal to unchain the lock did not constitute an affirmative act of obstruction.
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