Obstruction of justice

Obstruction of justice

Obstruction of justice is a crime that applies to a broad range of actions and omissions. Strictly speaking, it refers to the act of intentionally obstructing or interfering with the work of law enforcement professionals, regulatory bodies, and government representatives. Below are some scenarios that can potentially meet the definition of obstruction of justice.

  • Tampering with or destroying evidence in a police or government investigation
  • Lying to the police and/or government officials during an investigation
  • Interfering with an arrest
  • Bribing or threatening witnesses, court officials, and or jurors

It’s a crime that has been attributed to both average citizens and government leaders.  Former President Richard Nixon was accused of obstructing justice by covering up the Watergate Hotel incident during his 1972 reelection campaign. Another ex-President, Bill Clinton, was investigated for allegedly concealing evidence in the Paula Jones lawsuit for sexual harassment.

In New York State, the penalties for obstructing justice depend on exactly what alleged crime the defendant is accused of covering up or supporting.  For example Interfering with a murder investigation would be dealt with more severely than covering up a friend’s possession of fake ID.

If the obstruction was accomplished via an illegal act such as intimidation or physical force, New York law classifies it as Obstructing Governmental Administration in the Second Degree, a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. The next step up is Obstructing Governmental Administration in the First Degree, which applies when someone interferes with a telecommunications system and consequently causes someone else to be injured. This crime is a class E felony punishable by up to four years in prison.

Like state law, federal penalties for obstructing justice will depend on the associated crimes.  Assaulting a process server or demonstrating in front of the home of a law enforcement officer, judge, juror, or participant in a federal proceeding can result in a fine, imprisonment, or both. Destroying or tampering with records in a federal investigation is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, a fine, or both.

Anyone arrested for allegedly obstructing justice should retain an experienced New York criminal defense attorney immediately. This particular charge can, in the event of a conviction, send someone to state or federal prison for years. Such a conviction can severely hinder any future career prospects.

Many people facing this particular charge have never been in trouble with the justice system before, and can unwittingly say or do something that compromises them even further. It’s a situation that should never be navigated without the assistance of a defense attorney who has handled obstruction of justice cases in the past. He or she will ensure that your rights are protected and use their expertise to present the best possible defense for you.

If you have been charged with an obstruction of justice crime or another crime, then be sure to speak with a criminal defense attorney. Do not give a statement to the police without having consulted with a lawyer first. Julie Rendelman has over 20 years of experience practicing law and offers free consultations. Call 212-951-1232 for more information and to schedule an appointment. Visit www.RendelmanLaw.com to learn more about Ms. Rendelman’s areas of practice.