What Is Obstruction of Justice?

An obstruction of justice is when an individual’s conduct obstructs the administration of law. This term is incredibly broad and encompasses many different types of unlawful actions and behavior. 

In general, a justice obstruction commonly pertains to conduct that hinders and stands directly in the way of law enforcement and court processes. Here are several different forms an obstruction can take.

Common Examples of Obstruction of Justice

Resisting Arrest

Resisting arrest involves physical interference with a law enforcement officer attempting to carry out an arrest. This act constitutes an obstruction of justice because it directly hinders the legal process and prevents local law enforcement officers from performing their duties. 

It can escalate to a fourth-degree crime if the offense involves flight and can further develop into a third-degree crime if the conduct involves physical and violent arrest. Resisting arrest disrupts the justice system and poses a significant challenge to the administration of law and order, which is essential for maintaining public safety and the integrity of investigations.

Preventing Prosecution

Preventing prosecution involves conduct taken to obstruct compliance with legal proceedings, which includes a variety of actions. Such conduct can range from hiding a person being prosecuted for a crime, aiding their escape, giving them a disguise, and other acts that allow them to evade arrest. This behavior qualifies as an obstruction of justice because it disrupts the legal system.

It can lead to serious obstruction charges and criminal penalties, particularly if it interferes with a federal criminal case. By preventing prosecution, an individual impedes the government’s ability to enforce federal statutes and achieve a just outcome, which naturally violates the legal duty to uphold justice.

Attempting to Influence the Officers of the Court

Attempting to influence the officers of the court constitutes an independently unlawful act and obstructs justice. An officer of the court refers to an individual who has an obligation to uphold the law and includes judges, attorneys, jurors, officers, and clerks. Additionally, threats and intimidation also fall under this category.

This type of interference undermines the impartiality of judicial proceedings and can be classified as a federal offense if it involves a federal judge or other government officials. Such conduct violates the legal system’s integrity and can lead to severe criminal penalties.

Slandering a Federal Judge

Slandering a federal judge involves making false claims or accusations that damage the judge’s reputation and obstruct their official duty. This act can be considered an obstruction of justice because it undermines the authority of the judicial system and interferes with the judge’s ability to perform their official functions. Slander against a federal judge can impact the administration of justice by creating bias or prejudice within the federal courts.

Witness Tampering

Witness tampering involves conduct intended to influence, intimidate, or coerce a witness into withholding testimony or providing false testimony. This is a very serious obstruction of justice offense, as it directly interferes with the legal process.

Additionally, witness tampering can lead to federal criminal charges under the Witness Protection Act of 1982 and other federal laws intended to protect the integrity of judicial proceedings. Such conduct violates the legal duty witnesses have and can prevent them from testifying freely and truthfully.

Destruction or Concealment of Evidence

The presentation of evidence is an essential element of criminal investigations and court proceedings. As such, the deliberate destruction or concealment of evidence is naturally a major obstruction of justice.

This obstruction charge is a federal offense when it interferes with federal investigations or the legal process in federal courts. Destruction of evidence can lead to severe criminal penalties, including federal prison sentences, as it impedes the administration of law and harms the ability of a federal law enforcement officer or government official to carry out their official duties.

If You’re Searching for a Criminal Defense Lawyer in New Jersey, Reach Out to the Law Offices of Zapicchi & Liller

At The Law Offices of Zapicchi & Liller LLP, we’ve successfully litigated obstruction of justice charges and a multitude of other criminal offenses. Every experienced criminal defense attorney in our firm is committed to providing defendants with the best representation possible in court. The criminal defense attorneys at our firm specialize in many different cases and have the experience to ensure that your criminal trial receives the attention it deserves. 

Contact us to learn more about the criminal and civil cases we help with and to schedule a consultation.