What Is Obstruction of Justice?

 Posted on April 04, 2019 in Federal Crimes

Illionois defense attorney,  Illinois criminal defense lawyerThe term “obstruction of justice” is one that is heard a lot in the news these days. What does it really mean though, to obstruct justice? What is involved in the crime, and what are the penalties if convicted? To answer these questions, one must look at the legal statutes found in The United States Code.

Obstruction of Justice, Section 1503

When most people think of obstruction of justice, they think of the type that falls under 18 U.S.C. Section 1503. Under this federal statute, obstruction of justice occurs when a person influences, obstructs, or hinders the administration of justice through corruption, force, threats, or threatening letters.

This is the legal definition most news stories today point towards. President Donald Trump, for example, has been accused of obstructing justice in Robert Mueller’s investigation. Now that Mueller’s report has gone to the U.S. Attorney General, if it is found there was obstruction of justice, Trump would have had to obstruct the federal judicial system.

One very important aspect of this law that is often overlooked is the fact that this crime relies mainly on intent. A person must know that they are interfering with the justice system, and trying to stop, slow, or alter the results in some form. In order for the prosecution to prove this crime, they must have clear evidence that a person had a specific intention of interfering with an investigation or inquiry.

While obstruction of justice outlined in Section 1503 of the United States Code is the most familiar to some, there is another type that does not get as much attention.

Obstruction of Justice, Section 1505

While Section 1503 of the U.S. Code refers to the obstruction of the due administration of justice, Section 1505 refers to another type of obstruction of justice. This section deals with obstruction of proceedings before departments, agencies, and committees.

The definition of this type of obstruction of justice is largely the same. The only difference is that instead of a person obstructing justice of the due administration of justice, a person must obstruct justice in another proceeding, or in front of a committee.

For example, if it was found that James Comey was not telling the truth when he testified before the Senate, or if he interfered in any way with that proceeding, he could have faced charges of obstruction of justice.

Penalties for Obstruction of Justice

The justice and legal system of the country are very important. They keep order, ensure checks and balances are in place and are the backbone of our society. As such, when someone tries to interfere with these systems, they can be charged. If convicted, they face serious penalties.

The penalties for both types of obstruction of justice are high fines and possible imprisonment for up to five years in federal prison. The only change made to these penalties is if, under Section 1505, the obstruction of justice involved domestic or international terrorism. In these cases, the penalty is increased to a maximum of eight years in prison and high fines.

Need Help With Your Federal Charge? Contact a Federal Criminal Defense Attorney in Illinois

Over the past few years, it seems as though only high government officials need to worry about an obstruction of justice charge. Truthfully though, anyone that is suspected of having interfered in an investigation could face these charges. If they do, they need an experienced Chicago federal criminal defense lawyer on their side. If you have been charged with obstruction of justice, or any other federal crime, contact the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel at 312-629-0669. We are the experienced federal criminal defense team you need for your defense, and we will fight hard to help you retain your freedom. Call us today for your free consultation and we will begin discussing your case.


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