Federal Obstruction of Justice Defense Lawyer
Are You Dealing With An Obstruction of Justice Charge?
Obstruction of justice is described as acting in a way to intentionally impede or interfere with a government investigation or prosecution. Federal obstruction of justice charges are primarily designed to preserve the integrity of the criminal justice process. This statute applies to all stages of this process – from a federal law enforcement investigation, prosecution, and sentencing.
The most common federal obstruction of justice charges are brought against people that willfully and knowingly interfere with a government investigation or court proceedings. These crimes, which include witness tampering, destroying evidence, and bribing the jury, lend truth to the old saying that “sometimes the cover-up is worse than the crime.”
Obstruction of justice is a very broad concept and occurs when someone makes an effort to prevent the execution of a lawful process or the administration of justice in either a criminal or civil matter.
Obstruction of evidence can entail such actions as destroying evidence, intimidating potential witnesses, retaliating against actual witnesses, preparing false testimony or false evidence, or interfering with jurors and other court personnel. There are criminal obstruction statutes in place to help protect the integrity of legal proceedings and to protect individuals participating in criminal proceedings.
There are a number offenses that a can be committed and obstruction of justice can take almost any form, including:
- Obstructing a federal process or writ server.
- Obstructing or resisting an extradition agent.
- Efforts to influence or injure a court officer or juror.
- Influencing a juror by writing.
- Obstructing proceedings before departments, agencies, or committees.
- Stealing or altering court records.
- Picketing or parading with the intent to obstruct the administration of justice.
- Obstructing court orders.
- Obstructing criminal investigations.
- Tampering with witnesses, victims, or informants.
- Retaliating against a witness, victim or informant.
Falsify, Destroy, or Conceal Records in a Federal Investigation
Under 18 U.S.C. 1519, federal obstruction of justice charges can be filed if somebody alters or destroys a document with intent of influencing a federal criminal investigation. If you destroy relevant evidence to an investigation, you could be receive a federal prison sentence for up to 20 years. It should be noted its not enough for the prosecutor to prove you falsified or destroyed documents while under investigation – even in cases where the documents were a critical piece of evidence in the investigation.
In order to obtain a conviction for falsifying or destroying evidence in a federal investigation, they have to be able to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, the documents or other tangible object destroyed or falsified was relevant to a federal matter, and that you falsified, destroyed, or concealed it with the specific intent to obstruct a potential or pending federal investigation.
It should also be noted that a “tangible object” includes all types of physical evidence. This means it illegal to tamper with any type of evidence involved in an investigation in a federal matter – which means any area where the federal government can exercise its power, This of course, would include a criminal or civil investigation.
It also includes a private company who is attempting to conceal information from a government agency. There are a variety of defenses a lawyer could use against federal obstruction of justice charges. For example, even in cases where the prosecutor can prove you destroyed, falsified, or concealed evidence, our federal criminal defense lawyers might be able to prove you didn't have an intent to interfere with an investigation.
If a you are accused of shredding documents that were later found to be relevant in an investigation, we could possible make an argument that shredding the documents is a routine business activity, and you were not even aware they were relevant to an investigation.
Other Types of Federal Obstructing of Justice Charges
Tampering with Physical Evidence
18 U.S.C. 1510 prohibits preventing a witness or victim from reporting crimes or complying with law enforcement. A conviction for with interfering with a witness in a criminal investigation could result in a sentence of up to five years in a federal prison. Theft or alteration of record or process is defined under 18 U.S.C. § 1506.
Again, the federal prosecutor as to be able to prove – beyond reasonable doubt – you acted with an intent to obstruct a criminal investigation.
It's also illegal to bribe someone in an effort to delay or prevent them from providing information to law enforcement about a crime. For instance, offering a victim or eyewitness a bribe for them to remain silent would be considered obstructing a criminal investigation. Additionally, it's also a crime for a financial institution or insurance company to notify someone they received a a government subpoena for that their records.
Influencing a Juror or Officer of the Court
18 U.S.C. 1503, prohibits the act to influence, intimidate, or impede a juror or officer of the court – or to interfere with a court order. In order to convict you, the prosecutor has to be able to prove there was an act of communication that was directed at the jury or others in the proceeding with an intent to influence the outcome of the proceeding. It's a crime to send a written communication to a juror to influence their decision.
A proceeding includes every phase of a trial or hearing – jury deliberations on a verdict, a judge ruling on a motion, or even a probation officer who is going to make a recommendation during sentencing. Influencing, intimidating or impeding includes a wide range of behavior, such as harassment or attempts to bribe a juror of family members.
This statute also prohibits any type of action that interferes with the due administration of justice – which means conduct that would include destroying subpoenaed documents, hiding a witness even if they consent, if there is a specific intent to interfere with the investigation.
18 U.S.C. 1512, prohibits tampering with a witness, which is a common form of federal obstruction of justice charges. This statute also prohibits tampering with a victim or a government informant.
The statute describes witness tampering as harassing or assaulting a witness, or corruptly persuading a witness to change their story or avoid testifying. There are are variety of ways someone could be charged with witness tampering in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512, each has different penalties.
- Murder of a witness or victim to prevent them from testifying or producing evidence. A conviction could result in life in a federal prison.
- Using, threatening, or attempting to use physical force against a witness or victim in order to influence their testimony or prevent from appearing in court.
- Bribing a witness or victim in order to delay or influence their testimony, prevent their appearance in court, or force them to falsify evidence.
- Harassment of a witness or victim in order to delay or prevent them from testifying or appearing in court. A conviction carries 3 years in a federal prison.
Additionally, if you tamper with evidence, like altering, destroying, or concealing a document with an intent to obstruct or impede a court proceeding, you could receive a 20 year prison sentence.
Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been charged with interfering with the work of police, investigators, agencies, prosecutors, or court officials, you should speak with a federal criminal lawyer at Eisner Gorin LLP. Obstruction of justice is a serious charge and federal entities do not take this offense lightly.
Those who impede or obstruct the facilitation of justice will be treated very harshly, so it is important to have an aggressive attorney who is willing to go to battle for you.