Obstruction of justice is typically defined as interfering with the due process of the law, whether it involves local or federal proceedings. The penalties for this crime tend to vary widely, as there are various ways to obstruct justice. In most cases, the minimum penalty is a fine and a misdemeanor on the record, but some acts are considered felonies, and are punished with jail time. Obstructing a federal case, for example, is often a felony, while interfering with a case that involves a local jurisdiction is usually a misdemeanor.
There are several ways to obstruct justice, with most of them resulting in a fine, especially when they involve only local authorities. For instance, not allowing a judge, police officer, or juror to do his job without interruption is usually considered a misdemeanor, as is making false statements to those in these professions. Trying to influence a jury or judge during a trial that involves state law is also considered obstruction of justice. The typical penalty for such actions is a fine, as well as the addition of a misdemeanor to the criminal record, unless, of course, a person does this repeatedly, in which case the penalty could rapidly escalate.
Some cases of obstruction of justice are considered felonies, typically when they involve federal cases. For example, tampering with or retaliating against a witness in a federal case is a common form of this crime, as is stopping a process server from doing his job. Attempting to help someone who is charged with a federal crime, such as by letting them know ahead of time to expect a subpoena, is also often considered a felony count of obstruction of justice. In general, interfering with the punishment of a guilty party can have serious consequences when it comes to federal court, and is typically punished by up to about ten years in jail.
Of course, the penalties vary widely depending on the actual crime. For instance, while threatening a juror, judge, or police officer can result in ten years in jail, actually harming one can lead to 20 years of incarceration. In fact, even attempting to hurt an official involved with a court case can result in 20 years of jail time. Other factors may also affect the outcome, such as whether the person accused of obstructing justice already has a criminal record. Additionally, the use of lawyer can have an impact on the penalties involved, as can the laws in the area where the obstruction of justice takes place.