Monmouth County Robbery Suspect Takes Interesting Fall Which May Result in Obstruction & Hindering Charges

A Wall Township man was arrested and charged with robbery after stealing a money box from a local restaurant. The suspect stole the box when restaurant personnel were preoccupied with an order. The defendant was apparently unsatisfied with this theft and demanded additional money from the clerk. Police were able to identify the man and executed a search at his home. Upon arriving at the assailant’s home, police were greeted by his mother who denied knowledge of his whereabouts. As they continued questioning of the mother, the defendant fell through the sheetrock ceiling and landed on the floor. Police then arrested the man for the robbery and bail was set at $50,000. Charges of hindering and/or obstruction have yet to be filed against the mother.

Robbery is a Second Degree Crime under N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1 where no weapon is involved. A person can be charged with robbery in accordance with section 2C:15-1 if, in the course of committing a theft, he causes:  1) bodily injury to another or uses forces on anotheror;  2) threatens or purposely puts another in fear of  immediate bodily injury; or 3) commits or threatens to commit a crime of the first or second degree. A charge or indictment for Robbery requires four elements: (1) the accused attempted or committed a theft; (2) the defendant threatened or used force during the course of the theft; (3) the force or threat of force occurred during the theft or flight from the theft; and (4) the accused acted intentionally. It appears that the State will have an easy time establishing these elements if the facts contained in the press are accurate.

The more complicated question in this case may involve potential charges against the suspect’s mother for violating N.J.S.A. 2C:29-3 by virtue of hindering apprehension or prosecution of her son. N.J.S.A. 2C:29-3 describes seven types of conduct which constitute hindering: (1) harboring or concealing a person who is being sought by law enforcement; (2) aiding a suspect by providing a weapon, money, transportation, disguise or other means to avoid discovery or apprehension; (3) concealing, tampering or destroying evidence of a crime or information which would otherwise aid law enforcement; (4) warning the suspect of anticipated apprehension; (5) making threats, force, intimidation or deception to prevent or obstruct apprehension; (6) engaging in conduct to protect the profit or gain derived from the commission of a crime; or (7) giving false information to prevent, hinder or impede investigation or apprehension. Each of the above acts must be undertaken with the purpose to hinder in order for the related conduct to provide a basis for violation under N.J.S.A. 2C:29-3. The statute also requires that the suspect have knowledge that the person being protected was the target or actually charged with a crime, motor vehicle offense or insurance fraud. The degree or grading of a hindering offense is predicated on the extent or seriousness of the underlying offense sought to be hindered and the relationship between the suspect and the person who is the target of the underlying offense. Where an individual is hindering to avoid a crime of the Second Degree or higher, the hindering is a third degree crime. An exception to this rule applies, however, where the target and the hinderer are spouses or enjoy a parental relationship. In this instance, the hindering is a Fourth Degree crime. Hindering is otherwise a disorderly persons offense.

It appears that if the mother here had knowledge that her son was in the home and that he was the target of a robbery or actually committed the robbery then she could be found guilty of a Fourth Degree crime. The mother could be guilty under a theory of harboring or concealing a person sought by law enforcement, warning the suspect of anticipated apprehension, or giving false information to prevent/impede the investigation/apprehension. The mother’s statements to the police that her son was not home would have had to be for the purpose to hinder the investigation/apprehension (which they presumably would have been).