If you’re questioned as part of a police investigation, you don’t necessarily have to fear that you’ll be charged with a crime. Police officers interview witnesses who may have been at the scene of a crime, or people who know the accused well—family members, friends, or coworkers—or experts who can explain how or why something happened.
But even if you are not the person accused of committing a crime, your involvement in the investigation is important, and is governed by specific laws that make it illegal for you to act in a way that would hinder or impede the ongoing investigation. If you act in any way that would hold up an ongoing investigation, or mislead officers, you could be charged with a crime yourself, under the New Jersey hindering statute N.J.S.A. 2C:29-3.
New Jersey Law
The New Jersey hindering statute makes it a crime for a person to hinder an official investigation “with purpose to hinder the detention, apprehension, investigation, prosecution, conviction, or punishment of another for an offense or violation.” In order to be charged with a crime under the hindering statute, you must have knowledge that the person you’re protecting is a suspect or has actually been charged with a crime.
The law details seven specific ways in which a person can be charged with hindering, based on his or her actions:
- Harboring or hiding a person who is being sought by the police
- Providing money, weapons, transportation, disguises, etc. to someone who is a suspect in an investigation
- Hiding, tampering with, or destroying evidence in a crime, or hiding information that would aid the investigation
- Warning a suspect about the police investigation
- Using threats, intimidation, force, or deception to prevent the police from making an arrest
- Protecting profits or gains from a criminal act
- Providing false information to the police in an attempt to impede an investigation or conceal information pertinent to an investigation
How a hindering offense is prosecuted will depend on how serious the original crime is, and the relationship between the original suspect and the person being questioned. Most hindering charges are disorderly persons offenses. If you are hindering an investigation related to a second degree crime or higher, your charges for hindering will be in the third degree. However, if you and the suspect are spouses, or if there is a parental relationship, the charges will be in the fourth degree.
Being involved in a criminal investigation, even if it’s just to provide information, can be very intimidating, especially if it’s a crime of a serious nature, or the suspect is someone you know well. It’s important to understand what you can and can’t do when you’re involved in a police investigation, and to understand what actions could land you in trouble.
For more information regarding police investigations and interviews, contact Scott Gorman, an experienced Essex County criminal defense lawyer with The Gorman Law Firm. Mr. Gorman can help you navigate an interrogation or interview while protecting your rights.
Published in Categories: Criminal Defense