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Understanding an obstruction of justice charge

You weren't trying to be particularly sneaky when you realized that the police were on their way to your home, but you also didn't want to get into trouble. A friend at your home had a warrant out for their arrest, but you took them in and hid them. Now, the police are on their way after getting a tip.

You decide to hide your friend inside, but when the police turn up with a warrant and search your home, they discover that you lied about your friend not being there. Now, you're being charged with obstructing justice for lying to the investigators.

What is the obstruction of justice?

The obstruction of justice is defined as interfering with the administration of justice and law. In your case, you tried to stop the authorities from performing their work. Impeding justice, in any sense, is not a good idea and will lead to charges.

There are several situations that fall under obstructing justice such as tampering with evidence, retaliating against a witness, destroying audit records, influencing officers of the law, obstructing a criminal investigation and many others.

Keep in mind that it is the effect of an action that the prosecution and court look at, not the action itself. Even an act that might appear innocent can lead to charges if the effect is obstruction.

What does the prosecution need to do to prove that there was an obstruction of justice?

  1. The prosecution has to show that there was a pending federal judicial proceeding.
  2. The defendant has to have known that the proceeding was taking place or that it was intending to take place.
  3. The defendant has to have obviously interfered with, or tried to interfere with, the proceeding.

It is important to understand these three requirements. The most complicated thing about them is that there didn't have to be any actual obstruction that took place. Just attempting to obstruct justice is enough to land you with the charge and put your own life and liberty on the line.

At the state level, you cannot willfully obstruct, delay or resist the police or emergency personnel. This also includes interfering with radio signals or taking a police officer's firearm.

Sentencing for these acts can vary depending on what the defendant is accused of doing. At a minimum, most lead to at least a fine and up to six months in prison. Felony penalties can lead to 20 or more years.

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