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The Spodek Law Group understands how delicate high-profile cases can be, and has a strong track record of getting positive outcomes. Our lawyers service a clientele that is nationwide. With offices in both LA and NYC, and cases all across the country - Spodek Law Group is a top tier law firm.

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Obstruction of Justice

By Spodek Law Group | February 14, 2023

Understanding Obstruction of Justice

Obstruction of justice is a serious crime that can have significant legal consequences. It involves any act that corruptly or by force, threats, or communication, influences, impedes, or endeavors to impede the due administration of justice. This can include a range of offenses that fall under this general category.

What Constitutes Obstruction of Justice?

In California, there is no specific offense called “obstruction of justice,” but several crimes fall under this category, including offering false evidence, preparing false evidence, destroying evidence, and witness tampering.

Offering or Preparing False Evidence

In California, offering or preparing false evidence is a felony offense under Penal Code Section 132 and Section 134. A false document, one that has been altered, forged, or antedated, is considered false evidence. Preparing any false or antedated document with the intent of producing it as genuine for a fraudulent or deceitful purpose in any trial, proceeding, or inquiry authorized by law is also considered a felony.

Destroying Evidence

Willfully destroying, erasing, or concealing evidence with the intent to prevent it from being produced in a trial, investigation, or inquiry authorized by law is a misdemeanor offense under Penal Code Section 135. This law applies to any papers, books, written instruments, records, video recordings, digital images, or anything about to be produced as evidence in a legal matter.

Witness Tampering

California Penal Code Section 136 prohibits bribing, influencing, intimidating, or threatening a witness. This offense involves preventing or attempting to prevent a victim or witness from reporting or testifying about a crime or cooperating with the prosecution. Depending on the circumstance of the case and whether force was used to intimidate or tamper with a witness, this crime can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

The Consequences of Obstruction of Justice

Obstruction of justice crimes carry heavy penalties in California. For example, offering false documents into evidence or preparing false evidence is punishable by up to three years in state prison or felony probation. Destroying evidence carries penalties of up to six months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Tampering with or intimidating a witness is a “wobbler” offense, meaning it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. As a misdemeanor, this crime is punishable by a jail sentence of up to one year, and as a felony, possible penalties include a four-year prison sentence.

Defending Against Obstruction of Justice Charges

The legal defenses your attorney employs will depend on the circumstances of your case. Common defenses against charges of obstruction of justice crimes include lack of intent and mistaken identity. The prosecution must prove the defendant acted knowingly to be guilty of an obstruction of justice crime. Furthermore, the burden is on the prosecution to prove the defendant was the person who intimidated a witness, prepared false evidence, or destroyed evidence. Having an alibi for the time the act was committed can be a strong defense.

President Trump Accused of Obstruction of Justice: The Gray Area of Criminal Law

The world was rocked when news broke that President Trump was being accused of “obstruction of justice.” Apparently, he may have had a conversation with former FBI Director James Comey where he asked him to lay off his former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn. The allegation, if true, could be considered obstruction of justice, a crime that’s both serious and hard to define.

The Blurred Line Between Lawful and Unlawful Conduct

American criminal law is based on a fundamental principle that the line between what’s lawful and what’s unlawful needs to be clear. This clarity helps us know, in advance, what conduct could land us in a prison cell. This is why the constitutional prohibition of ex post facto laws exists. Laws with vague terms, on the other hand, raise the risk of abuse of power by the police and prosecutors.

That’s where “obstruction of justice” comes in. It’s a catch-all doctrine that’s open to interpretation, and one that can be abused. “Obstruction” can be defined by the authorities as almost any action that “impedes” an investigation. This means that invoking your constitutional right to silence, your right to speak with an attorney, or the attorney-client privilege could be deemed “obstruction.”

The Danger of a Catch-All Doctrine

The danger with such a catch-all doctrine is that it can trap people. It can make anyone who has done something that the government doesn’t like, regardless of how innocent or lawful the action, a felon. Judge Alex Kozinski’s legal opinions provide a clear example of this. In United States v. Caldwell, he wrote:

“Under the government’s theory, a husband who asks his wife to buy him a radar detector would be a felon. So would a person who witnesses a crime and suggests to another witness not to tell the police anything unless specifically asked about it. So would the executives of a business that competes with a government-run enterprise and lowers its prices to siphon off the government’s customers. So would co-owners of land who refuse to sell it for use as a military base, forcing the government to go to the extra trouble of condemning it.”

It’s clear that the government does many things, and many actions by private parties can get in the government’s way. However, it can’t be that each such action is automatically a felony.

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I was searching for a law firm with some power to help me deal with a warrant in New York . After 6 days I decided to go with Spodek Law Group. It helped that This law firm is well respected by not only the top law firms in New York , but the DA , Judge as well. I...

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After meeting with several law firms, I chose the Spodek Law Group not only for their professionalism and experience, but for the personal attention given to me right from the initial consultation. It is important to recognize how crucial having the right legal team is when faced with potentially life altering events that impact families and the lives of loved...

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