In California as in every state, the judicial system’s integrity hinges on honest actions by participants, without fear of reprisals; when a participant does not act honestly, he or she may be charged with obstruction of justice. Basically, obstruction of justice is the interfering with proper or legitimate operations of either a court or officers of the court through either actions or words. A few examples of this criminal offense include threatening a judge, encouraging someone to destroy evidence, or attempting to bribe a witness. Obstructing justice is a crime under both state and federal laws.
Insufficient evidence to secure a conviction
Even when there is not sufficient evidence to convict, prosecutors may charge an individual with obstruction of justice based on suspicions that he or she is refusing to provide information or withholds information vital to continuing an investigation. When someone is arrested for obstructing justice, or even charged with the crime, law enforcement officials are highly focused on putting that person in prison, even without substantial evidence supporting the original crime being investigated. Ultimately, prosecutors know that a conviction for obstruction of justice can result in the defendant spending up to 5 years in state prison, and therefore see this as a way to secure a meaningful conviction.
Hiding or destroying evidence or material that would be useful in proving a crime, or attempting to prevent another individual from providing information regarding a crime may also leave you facing charges of obstruction of justice.
In December of 2013, 18 officials of the LA County Sheriff’s Department were charged with various crimes including improper arrest/search of visitors to the jail, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice. These officials, some of which were current sheriff’s deputies and some of which were former deputies, allegedly engaged in misconduct inside Los Angeles County jails, and inmate abuse. An attorney in the case said that the pattern of activity alleged against the deputies demonstrated that they considered themselves to be ‘above the law,’ according to a news article at the Los Angeles Times.
Obstruction of justice may be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony offense. Misdemeanor charges generally leave a defendant facing less harsh punishment if convicted, however the impact to his or her reputation and career can be devastating. Felony charges will result in criminal penalties which include up to 5 years in prison. In situations where the obstruction is related to terrorism, either domestic or international, a defendant may be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.
Anyone who is under investigation for obstruction of justice must speak with an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney who will work to protect your legal rights and help you avoid a conviction and the resulting criminal penalties.