What is Obstruction of Justice and Types of Obstructions

obstruction-of-justiceThe media of the US is buzzing with the latest news that the New York Governor Cuomo’s staff has interfered with the investigation system. It has interrupted the investigation into the corruption in the firms that are connected to the Governor’s office, thus resulting in obstruction of justice. The Governor is warned by the attorney for witness tampering and obstructing the justice.

Now, as you are watching the television and hearing about the case, the questions that pop up in your mind are what is obstruction of justice? And what can be the punishment for this offense? Let's have a sneak peek into it.

What is Obstruction of Justice?

Obstruction of justice can be defined as interfering with the judicial process. It can be of various types. But in most of the cases, if someone is found as convicted, then he can be fined or, in the case of very serious offenses, sent behind the bars.

Various Types of Obstructions

  • Not allowing the judge or the police or local administration to deliver their duty
  • Making false statement to hide the guilty
  • Influencing the jury or the judge

The above are the most common cases of obstructing the justice. Usually, they result in monetary fine as they defy the State Law. But in case of Federal Law, the story is a little different. The offenses that may result in imprisonment are mostly felonies. The cases that can be considered as felony are:

  • Tempting with or retaliating against the witness in federal cases
  • Stopping the legal authority from doing their job
  • Attempting and helping the person who is charged with a federal crime by sheltering them or informing them the time of the subpoena in advance

We can see that interfering with the federal law may result in some serious punishments.

The best way to understand such cases is to have a look at the examples.

Martha Stewart, the domestic goddess of the US, was convicted with this serious crime. She was charged for giving misleading statement and thus, misguiding the investigation process of federal Security and Exchange Commission. And in 2004, she and her broker were convicted by the court for misleading and falsifying the SEC and federal government and thus, obstructing the justice.

Interfering with the Evidence/Witnesses

Interfering with the evidence can be considered as a serious crime. You may or may not be present at the site where the crime has taken place. But you can still be found guilty for it. Suppose, while passing by the site if you have tampered some evidence unknowingly, you still may find yourself accused for obstructing the justice.

Witness tampering or influencing is a very serious issue. The major issues, such as intimidating the witness to prevent him/her giving the testimony, can result in serious punishment. If the victim is the witness of some federal case, then the result can be devastating. If the witness fails to reach the house of law to testify due to some minor misguidance, even then the case is considered as the obstruction of justice.

Trying and Influencing the Judges and Juries

To influence a judgment, the most common way is to stop the judge from delivering his duty. It does not only mean the cases of preventing the judge or bribing to change the judgment. Making chaos in front of the house of law, picketing or parading near the court are also considered as obstructing the justice.

The Penalties for Obstruction of Justice

Most of the time if the charges are under state law and are minor, then the convict is usually punished with a fine. But if the charges are serious, then the punishment can be harsh as well. These may include:

  • 10 years of imprisonment for threatening the juror, judge or the police officer who is investigating the case
  • 20 years of imprisonment if the obstruction causes some serious harm to someone

While delivering the judgment, the jury also considers if there is a criminal record of the accused. If yes, then it may affect the outcome.

Shared by David Mgarvin.

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