Know Your Rights in New York IV: Reporter ‘Obstructs’ Police by Asking Questions

“Your superior intellect is no match for our puny weapons!” The Simpsons

Our last entry discussed the plight of Emily Good, a woman arrested in Rochester, New York, for recording a police traffic stop on video.

In an interesting twist on that basic theme, the Post-Star of Glens Falls, New York, reports the arrest of a reporter for attempting to inquire into police activities at a crime scene. It would appear that at the time of the arrest the reporter was in a public thoroughfare, asking police officers questions about a crime that had taken place hours earlier.

As in the Rochester case, the offending observer was handcuffed and subjected to all the other humiliations incident to arrest. And as in the Rochester case, the charge is ‘Obstructing Governmental Administration in the Second Degree’, NY Penal Law Section 195.05. This is a Class A Misdemeanor under New York law.

The man must appear in court later this month. Conviction could cost him a year in jail, a $1,000 fine, and more than $200 in surcharges. A hefty price to pay for trying to find out what public employees are up to.

The charge against Ms. Good was ultimately dismissed: her actions didn’t violate the statute cited by the complaining officer. In other words, the officer wanted to punish her behavior, but didn’t have the power, because the state (in the form of its legislature), had declined to give him that power.

But could the state have given him the power? Does the individual have any right that could check such power? Stay tuned.