Obstruction of Justice
What Is Obstruction of Justice?
Are you facing charges or allegations of obstruction of justice? Have police questioned you about hiding evidence or interfering with an investigation? Call now or complete the form below to protect your legal interests.
Obstruction of justice is a criminal offense that may violate both state and federal law. To meet the elements of the crime, an individual usually must interfere with an investigation, trial, official inquiry or another type of legal proceeding.
It is important to note that obstruction of justice usually stems from other criminal conduct. That is, both state and federal law attach obstruction of justice to other existing crimes. For example, a person may face obstruction of justice charges that directly relate to embezzlement, fraud, assault, murder or other criminal activity.
Examples of Obstruction of Justice
In theory, anything someone does to interfere with the administration of justice may constitute obstruction of justice. In practice, though, criminal charges usually arise in the following situations:
- Aiding a criminal suspect
- Lying to investigators
- Destroying evidence
- Tampering with evidence
Aiding a Criminal Suspect
The public-at-large has an interest in quickly investigating crime and holding individuals responsible. If a person harbors a criminal suspect by giving him or her a place to hide, he or she may be obstructing justice. The same is true if a person concocts a false alibi or otherwise aids a criminal suspect.
Lying to Investigators
Most criminal suspects have a right not to incriminate themselves. This includes the right to remain silent during police questioning. If a person chooses to talk to detectives, though, he or she must not lie. After all, lying to investigators likely constitutes obstruction of justice.
After an investigation concludes, a criminal suspect may go on trial. If an individual lies under oath when serving as a witness, he or she may be guilty of obstruction of justice. Alternatively, prosecutors may charge the person with a separate criminal offense, perjury.
When committing a crime, individuals often use certain implements. They may also have an evidence record that includes financial documentation, video footage and other evidence. If a person destroys this evidence or any other details of the crime, he or she may be obstructing justice.
For example, after a murder, a criminal suspect may tear apart the gun and throw it in a river. Doing so, though, probably violates the law.
Tampering With Evidence
An individual does not have to destroy evidence to be potentially guilty of obstruction of justice; tampering with evidence is likely sufficient.
If a person alters a video to make it show something different than the true sequence of events, he or she may have committed obstruction of justice.
It is also possible to obstruct justice by tampering with witnesses. If a person threatens a witness or otherwise encourages him or her to testify in a specific way, he or she may be guilty of an obstruction of justice offense.
The Obstruction of Justice Process
When investigating a possible crime, investigators often gather extensive evidence and speak to multiple witnesses. When doing so, they have an opportunity to compare details. If something seems off, they may consider whether someone is possibly obstructing justice.
After assembling evidence, law enforcement professionals present the matter to prosecutors. Prosecutors, then, decide whether to file charges. They may bring standalone obstruction charges, or they may add obstruction of justice to an existing criminal complaint.
Alternatively, when exercising prosecutorial discretion, prosecutors may decide to file no charges at all.
Prosecutors must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This is true for every criminal charge they file. Therefore, if you are facing obstruction of justice charges, you can expect prosecutors to prepare a case that shows your conduct meets all the elements of the offense.
Obstruction of justice charges may be a plea-bargaining chip for prosecutors who are seeking a conviction of a more serious offense. In exchange for a plea, prosecutors may agree to drop obstruction charges. Prosecutors may also add obstruction charges to their case to motivate an uncooperative defendant.
If a judge or jury convicts a person of obstruction of justice, the individual faces criminal consequences. The same is true if a defendant pleads guilty to obstruction.
Depending on the severity of the offense, a judge may order the defendant to serve time behind bars, pay a fine or endure another type of punishment. In some places, judges may use obstruction of justice as a sentencing enhancement for the underlying crime.
That is, a judge may sentence an individual more harshly if the person committed obstruction of justice.
Work With an Experienced Local Attorney
If you are facing obstruction of justice charges or other criminal charges, your personal freedom may be on the line. Because criminal law is incredibly complex, you may lack the skills necessary to handle the situation without legal representation.
An experienced local attorney can help you in a variety of ways. First, competent legal counsel can help you understand whether you may have committed a crime. If prosecutors have already charged you with an obstruction of justice offense, the right lawyer can also help you mount an aggressive defense.
Defending against obstruction of justice charges likely requires an in-depth examination of both the facts of the matter and the law. An experienced lawyer can likely present your defense in the most effective way possible.
Your attorney can also help you decide whether accepting a plea deal is the right course of action.
Remember that prosecutors are lawyers who understand criminal matters extremely well. When you are defending yourself against charges, you must go up against experienced prosecutors. If you do not have a lawyer on your team, you may find yourself outmatched quickly.
Even though obstruction of justice charges can be scary, you do not have to navigate the criminal justice system alone. You also do not have to leave the outcome of your case to chance. Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!