The phrase "obstruction of justice" is making headlines across the national media, as legal experts and political commentators continue to debate over whether or not key U.S. Government officials are allegedly involved in obstruction of justice surrounding the firing of an FBI director in the middle of a government investigation. While the legal community and a criminal defense attorney may be familiar with the phrase, many everyday people want to know what the term means.
Definition of Obstruction of Justice
Obstruction of justice is a crime that involves interfering with criminal procedures related to the administration and due process of the law. An individual can be found guilty of obstruction of justice when he or she intentionally tries to impede or affect an investigation with a goal to cover up evidence or guilt. It is a serious crime to knowingly or willfully stand in the way of a criminal investigation or prosecution.
Lying to Law Enforcement
Intentionally making untrue statements to a federal law enforcement agent during an investigation is considered obstruction of justice, and it is also a felony. One could face a long prison sentence for lying to a federal agent.
Hiding or Destroying Evidence
If you intentionally hide or destroy evidence in an effort to stop an investigation, you have committed obstruction of justice. When you hide, change or destroy any documents, records or other evidence during an investigation, you may face several years in prison.
Common Law Obstruction
Common law obstruction involves interfering with a criminal investigation. This act will punish individuals who intentionally try to influence or stop an investigation. One can be charged with common law obstruction if he or she tries to persuade a witness not to testify. You can be charged with this crime even when it does not involve witness intimidation.
In Massachusetts, obstruction of justice is a common law crime, which means the elements of the crime is not set by a certain statute and can be changed to fit the particular crime committed. In order for a person to be convicted of obstruction of justice, the prosecution must prove the following elements:
The defendant knowingly attempts to interfere with an investigation.
The defendant was aware an investigation was taking place.
The defendant intentionally tried to persuade or advise a witness to lie, destroy, hide, or change evidence in an investigation.
An alleged crime was being investigated by law enforcement officials.
Punishment for Obstruction of Justice
According to, 18 U.S.C. § 1519 - U.S. Code, "Whoever knowingly alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsifies, or makes a false entry in any record, document, or tangible object with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence the investigation or proper administration of any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States or any case filed under title 11, or in relation to or contemplation of any such matter or case, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both."
If you are charged with obstruction of justice, you need to contact a criminal defense attorney. The consequences can be devastating and include years in prison. Your attorney can explain your rights and create a defense to help your case. Boston Criminal Defense Attorney, Edward Molari can provide you with legal advice that may help reduce the punishment or lessen the charge. He cares about your situation and provides personalized legal services in every case. Contact Attorney, Edward Molari at 617-942-1532 for a free consultation.