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Obstruction of Justice Charges

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Obstruction of justice is a felony under federal law and under the laws of most states. The two main federal obstruction of justice statutes can be found in 18 United States Code sections 1503 and 1505. Keep this in mind: It is very easy to commit an act which can result in an indictment for obstruction of justice.

In another section of this website, we have discussed grand juries. Obstructing a grand jury or court proceeding is a violation of Section 1503. The statute is very broad and encompasses a wide range of behavior that includes “corruptly” influencing, obstructing, or impeding the “due administration of justice,” and also covers any attempts to do so. Illegal action includes but is certainly not limited to intimidating a juror, either in a grand jury or a trial jury, or a court officer.

All crimes are carefully defined and are made up of certain elements, each of which must be proven beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt in order for a conviction to stand.

The essential elements of the obstruction of justice statues are having a corrupt state of mind or, in other words, a specific criminal intent to obstruct justice. An action intentionally and knowingly undertaken in which obstruction of justice was reasonably foreseeable satisfies this element. Also, note that the intent required can be proven by circumstantial evidence and can also be inferred from facts and circumstances that, in and of themselves, may not be illegal.

The second element in obstruction of justice is what is known as endeavoring to impede or obstruct justice. Endeavoring covers almost any effort made to accomplish the purpose of obstructing justice.

Finally, obstructing justice requires that the obstruction arises when justice is being administered or, in other words, that there be an impending proceeding at the time of the obstructing act. So, if a grand jury is sitting or if a case is pending or being tried, those circumstances clearly fall under the required element of attempting to obstruct the “due administration” of justice.

We had a case recently in which an individual was subpoenaed to provide documents to a federal grand jury. The individual who was subpoenaed was actually cooperating with the United States Government at the time and asked his “friend” to destroy or hide the records so that the grand jury could not receive them. When the “friend” took possession of the records and hid them, the “friend” was charged with and ultimately pled guilty to obstruction of justice. The FBI audio and videotaped the entire crime. A good rule is to assume that anyone you talk with in person, on the telephone or via the Internet, is recording what you are saying. There is no reason for you to agree to commit a crime, even if you have no intention of doing so.

There are literally hundreds of examples of obstruction of justice convictions. Since many people reading this portion of the federal criminal law website will be involved in so-called white-collar criminal cases, the obstruction of justice statutes are particularly relevant. In this day of emails and the Internet, it is easy for literally thousands of documents – electronic or paper – to be relevant and material, and covered by grand jury subpoenas or subpoenas generated in the course of a case. Destroying or hiding these documents, or denying their existence, could easily be construed as obstructing justice.

It is essential that you retain a competent, experienced, and, ideally, a Board Certified criminal defense lawyer experienced in federal criminal law and procedure and cases involving obstruction of justice so that you can be properly advised and represented. Don’t wait to retain a criminal defense lawyer until after an act is done which may constitute obstruction of justice. Once an obstruction occurs or is attempted, you may be charged even if you are not ultimately charged with the substantive offense that the judicial proceedings encompass.

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If you have any questions about obstruction of justice, feel free to contact our law firm and ask for an appointment with Jeffrey S. Weiner. Call 305 670-9919 and schedule your free consultation with a knowledgeable federal crime attorney in Miami.

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