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Archive for the ‘lying to police’ tag

What Is Obstruction of Justice?

October 22nd, 2018 at 12:54 pm

Illinois defense lawyerThe news cycle has been full of the phrase ‘obstruction of justice’ in recent months, but while it can be a crime that affects the highest officials in the country, it can also be a crime that an average person is charged with when they become involved in a criminal investigation. If you are less than truthful with law enforcement, you may wind up on the receiving end of obstruction charges if you are not careful, and the penalty can be quite severe.

No Physical Act Necessary

Illinois’ relevant statute defines obstruction of justice as willfully performing certain actions, such as concealing evidence or witnesses, or lying to police, with the intent to “prevent the apprehension of” or “obstruct the prosecution or defense of” any one specific person. In other words, if someone lies to the police or conceals or destroys evidence with the intent to stop a criminal case from going forward, they may (at least in theory) be charged with obstruction of justice.

Historically, obstruction of justice was thought to require a physical act – that is, to physically destroy papers or burn evidence or drive a witness out of state – but recent jurisprudence has given modified that statement. In 2012, the Illinois Supreme Court held in People v. Baskerville that lying to a police officer may constitute obstruction – but it is important to note that it does not always. In many obstruction cases, the decision whether or not to prosecute can be a judgment call, especially if the prosecution of that suspect is later successful (in other words, if the relevant information was discovered by other means).

If You Are Charged

If you are charged with obstructing justice, the penalties can be severe, Most charges of obstruction are processed as Class 4 felonies, meaning that they are punishable by between one to three years in jail and a fine of $25,000. In rare situations it can be charged as a Class 3 felony, usually, if the obstruction is in relation to gang activity, but even if the obstruction is related to gang activity it may be possible to seek a lesser sentence, depending on the specific situation.

In some cases, it may be that prosecutors will seek to charge a person with obstruction related to an investigation if they are unable to mount an effective case for the underlying crime – for example, San Francisco Giants baseball player Barry Bonds was convicted of obstruction of justice over his statements to a grand jury regarding steroid use (both his own and other people’s), but prosecutors did not have the evidence to charge him over alleged drug use in his own case. This may also be a means by which a lesser sentence can be sought – providing the information that was being hidden can sometimes make obstruction charges disappear.

Seek Experienced Legal Help

While little actions like telling a white lie or warning a friend that the police are looking for them can feel like good deeds, they can open you up to serious legal liability. If you are charged with obstruction of justice in Illinois, you need an experienced attorney who knows how these types of cases tend to work. The skilled Rolling Meadows criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley can sit down with you and try to figure out a good strategy to go forward. Call us today to schedule a consultation.

 

Sources:

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/fulltext.asp?DocName=072000050K31-4

http://illinoiscourts.gov/Opinions/SupremeCourt/2012/111056.pdf

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