What is Obstruction of Justice?

Felicia Dye

In the United States, obstruction of justice is a crime that arises when someone tries to prevent, impede, or influence the administration of justice. Examples of actions that could result in a prosecution for such an offense include bribing a juror, threatening a judge, or encouraging false testimony.

Threatening a judge is one example of obstruction of justice.
Threatening a judge is one example of obstruction of justice.

Unimpeded justice is considered to be an essential part of American society. If agents of the law are prevented from performing their duties, many of the securities and principles people believe in could be seriously jeopardized. To prevent this from happening, obstruction of justice is codified into federal and state laws. These laws also serve as a measure of protection for those who are involved in executing justice.

Bribing a juror might result in prosecution.
Bribing a juror might result in prosecution.

There are many actions that can be considered obstruction of justice, including verbal actions, such as threatening a judge or encouraging a witness to give a false testimony, and physical actions, like destroying evidence and intimidating a juror. The federal law, and many state laws, regarding this crime is relatively broad. In most cases, the law does not specifically outline which actions qualify and which do not. This means it is generally a matter of court decision.

Getting in the way of police vehicles during a chase is considered an obstruction of justice.
Getting in the way of police vehicles during a chase is considered an obstruction of justice.

There are many false assumptions about the crime of obstructing justice. For example, it may be assumed that once a case is closed, obstruction cannot occur, but this is not true. Retaliation can also be classified as obstructing justice. It is unlawful for a person to harass, inflict fear, or harm someone, such as a judge, investigator, or witness, who has acted against his interest.

Obstruction of justice is not limited to judicial proceedings. A person can be found guilty of such a crime for actions committed during an investigation. This is true even when the individual accused of obstruction is not the subject of investigation. There is also a common misconception that the charge is limited to criminal cases. A person who attempts to prevent the execution of civil justice may also be charged with this crime.

Charges of obstruction can also be brought against public officials and their affiliates. Judges, prosecutors, and political aides have been known to face such charges. Judicial officials may be charged for deliberately failing to carry out some duty in the course of legal proceedings. Political aides may find themselves with such charges when a politician is under investigation and they act to prevent the disclosure of accurate information.

The penalties for an obstruction of justice charge may include a fine.
The penalties for an obstruction of justice charge may include a fine.

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Discussion Comments


Subway11-People sometimes resort to obstruction of justice because they fear the punishment, but many times if they are found guilty of obstruction of justice the punishment would be more severe.

Federal obstruction of justice statute carry a sentence of ten years in prison on top of any other punishments.


Bhutan-I remember that case. I know that criminal lawyers are always called out to defend people accuse of obstruction of justice statue, misdemeanor DUI, and larceny felony.

Cases involving shoplifting law and larceny law are also becoming more common. Both shoplifting and larceny relate to theft of a property either in a place of business as in a shoplifting case or in a residence such as larceny.

The amount of the theft really dictates if the case is tried as a misdemeanor or felony. Regarding misdemeanor DUI the charges come about based on the history, the amount of blood alcohol found in the accused system and the injury to another party.

Even if this was the first offense but there was injury to another party as a result of the drunk driving the charges it would automatically be upgraded to a felony.

If the act involved the death of another person they could be charged with Vehicular Manslaughter DUI which Is a felony punishable by a minimum of five to ten years in prison depending on the state.


Latte31-You know that in the Arthur Anderson obstruction of justice case it involved the shredding of documents regarding Enron.

They were Enron’s auditor and initially received a guilty verdict that was upheld by the court of appeals, but reversed by the Supreme Court.

The reasoning was that the instructions to the jury were unclear and really gave the jury no choice other than a conviction.

This is why the conviction was overturned. But Anderson Consulting lost its accounting license due to the previous litigation and was not allowed to perform audits for publicly held firms.

The company went from almost 30,000 employees to just under 200 employees. So despite the Supreme Court victory the damage done to their business practice was irreparable. The federal obstruction of justice statue are serious but they require that the jury receive fair and clear instructions.


Anon98002-Anyone that is arrested should be read the Miranda warnings in which the police officer has to inform the arrested party that they not only have a right to remain silent and that should he not be able to afford an attorney an attorney would be appointed to him free of charge.

If your step father was not charged and he was released then you would have to prove that the officer did something wrong. If a police officer asks you for identification it is my understanding that you have to provide it because they do have the right to arrest you.

It is best to speak with a criminal attorney because he or she can give you more specific feedback to your case.


My stepfather was approached by an officer who told him he was identified as a suspicious person and asked to show his identification. Upon refusing to do so, he was arrested and charged with obstructing justice. Is this charge fightable?

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