When Can You Be Charged With Obstruction Of Justice?

You obstruct justice if you engage in an act that interferes with an ongoing prosecution or investigation of a criminal suspect. Many people take it to mean refusing to provide information on a criminal investigation, but that is only one example. Many other things can constitute an obstruction of justice. Here are three examples to make the charge clearer:

Warning the Subject of an Ongoing Investigation

Warning a person that the authorities are investigating them can constitute an obstruction of justice. This is because the person can take measures to make the investigators' work more difficult, for example, by destroying evidence. Take an example where you are one of the teachers at a local school. Assume that the authorities ask you whether you think a colleague has been using the school's resources for personal benefit. You can be accused of obstruction of justice if you call the colleague and tell them about the probe.

Disguising a Handwriting Exemplar

You can also be charged with an obstruction of justice if the authorities request you to write as you normally do, and you try to disguise your handwriting. Consider an example where you are being investigated for assault and battery. Suppose, also, that the authorities find a letter which they believe you wrote threatening the victim of the assault, but you did not use your name. The authorities may ask you to write the contents of the letter, which they will dictate to you. This is called a handwriting exemplar, and if you can be charged with an obstruction of justice if you deliberately disguise your handwriting to make it appear that you never wrote the threatening letter.

Threatening a Witness

Lastly, threatening a witness may also attract the obstruction of justice charge. A typical witness will only produce an honest testimony, or even testify at all if they believe they won't face any negative consequence related to the testimony. Thus, you are obstructing justice when you threaten a potential witness.

Take an example where a neighbor is supposed to testify against you on a domestic violence charge. Suppose you tell the neighbor you will not promote their son, who works for your firm. In this case, the neighbor may be reluctant to testify against you, and the authorities may charge you with obstruction of justice if they learn of your intimidation.

Obstruction of justice may be a misdemeanor or felony depending on different issues such as the jurisdiction and the exact action you took to thwart the authorities' work. However, it is also true that police officers may sometimes threaten you with this charge to make you reveal incriminating evidence. Consult your lawyer like one from Miller Law LLC for a professional defense if you have been charged with obstruction of justice.