State v. Douglas Philpot, unpublished opinion, App. Div. Docket No. A-1514-09T4 (December 28, 2010) – Convictions reversed, acquittals ordered.
“Defendant denied that he knowingly possessed marijuana. As the trial judge noted, no other drugs were found. Only the trace of marijuana in the badge holder was located…. Here, the trial court did not make an express finding that the State had proved beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant knowingly possessed the marijuana. Our review of the record convinces us that the proofs were deficient in establishing guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Defendant did not have the burden to explain how the trace amount of vegetation was found in the Velcro badge holder. In the absence of any other evidence to support the State’s proofs, we are persuaded that what little the State presented failed to satisfy the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard.
“With regard to the obstruction of the ‘administration of law or other governmental function’ charge, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-1a … [t]he trial court’s decision was grounded on a finding that ‘[d]efendant failed to physically comply with an officer’s instruction by attempting to walk away.’ The testimony in the record does not support that finding. Defendant started to walk away when being questioned by Officer Pagano. The officer told defendant he was not free to leave and defendant complied by remaining, although he continued to direct obscenities at the officers. Defendant never fled from the parking lot. Defendant was then placed under arrest. The critical element that he attempted to leave the scene—- to bring defendant’s conduct under the obstruction provision ‘by means of flight’—-is missing…. Defendant did not attempt to flee during the investigatory stop, but complied with the officer’s request when told that he was not free to leave. With the failure of this necessary element of the offense, the obstruction of law violation was not established.”