Lynch, Milmed and Antell. The majority opinion was delivered by Lynch, P.J.A.D. Antell, J.A.D. (dissenting).
[146 NJSuper Page 590] 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.
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 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
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*fn1 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 (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 (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 (App. Div. 1964); State v. Smith , 46 N.J. 510 (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 (Cty. Ct. 1950)) none of them, except perhaps State v. Taylor , 121 N.J. Super. 395 (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 result in Taylor , though not with the court's analysis (at 398-399) of the word "interfere" as used in the statute.
In Haywood v. Ryan , 85 N.J.L. 116 (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; 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
and meddling in that investigation which was none of his concern. In State v. Taylor, supra , the court defined "interfere" as
Again, the proofs here support the conclusion that defendant hampered, disturbed, intervened and intermeddled in the concern of the trooper in the performance of 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, and added, "and of course 'interfere' does ...