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What is Obstruction of Justice?
Obstruction of justice refers to any act or attempt to deliberately interfere with the proper administration of law, especially during ongoing investigations or judicial proceedings. It encompasses a variety of behaviors, including but not limited to, destroying evidence, intimidating witnesses, lying to investigators, or hindering the investigation or prosecution of a crime. It’s an offense that strikes at the heart of the justice system, undermining its very foundations.
Obstruction of Justice Charges
Federal statutes explicitly address various forms of obstruction:
- 18 U.S.C. § 1503 (Influencing or Injuring Officer or Juror Generally): This provision penalizes attempts to influence or harm officers of the court, jurors, or witnesses with the aim of obstructing the due administration of justice.
- 18 U.S.C. § 1505 (Obstruction of Proceedings Before Departments, Agencies, and Committees): Targets those who obstruct the proper functioning of federal administrative proceedings or Congressional inquiries.
- 18 U.S.C. § 1512 (Tampering with a Witness, Victim, or an Informant): Penalizes acts to kill, threaten, or otherwise tamper with witnesses or informants to prevent their testimony or cooperation with law enforcement.
- 18 U.S.C. § 1519 (Destruction, Alteration, or Falsification of Records in Federal Investigations): Addresses the willful destruction or alteration of records, documents, or tangible objects with the intent to obstruct federal investigations.
Obstruction of Justice Investigations
Due to the nature of obstruction charges often arising out of other investigations or proceedings, several agencies might get involved:
- The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) often spearheads investigations relating to federal obstruction, given its broad mandate.
- The U.S. Attorney’s Office may launch its inquiries, especially if the obstruction pertains to proceedings it oversees.
- Depending on the context, other federal agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) might also have investigative roles.
Obstruction of Justice Sentencing
Sentencing for obstruction of justice under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines takes into account several elements:
- Nature and Severity of the Obstruction: Actively tampering with witnesses might be viewed more seriously than non-cooperation with an investigation.
- Impact on the Justice System: Did the obstruction lead to miscarriages of justice, wrongful convictions, or significant delays in proceedings?
- Underlying Offense: The seriousness of the crime at the center of the obstructed investigation or proceeding can influence sentencing.
- Prior Criminal History: Previous convictions, especially if they involve similar misconduct, can intensify sentencing.
- Acceptance of Responsibility: Owning up to the wrongdoing, expressing remorse, and cooperating with authorities can lead to leniency.
Penalties under the mentioned statutes can be severe. For example, violations of 18 U.S.C. § 1503 and § 1512 can result in imprisonment for up to 10 years, while 18 U.S.C. § 1519 can lead to a 20-year prison term. Given the gravity and complexity of obstruction charges, those facing them are strongly encouraged to secure skilled legal defense.
Facing Obstruction of Justice charges can be an overwhelming experience.
Retaining the services of Wall Street Prison Consultants can provide valuable guidance on navigating the legal process and understanding the ramifications of going to trial versus taking a plea.
Their expertise can help you prepare for sentencing hearings, explore early release options or sentence reductions, and ensure that you are well-equipped to achieve the best possible outcome in your Obstruction of Justice case.