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The Many Faces of Obstruction of Justice


Federal and state laws outline very strict rules about how criminal cases are supposed to proceed, from start to finish.  The origin of these rules of criminal procedure go all the way back to the Bill of Rights, and case law has elaborated on them over the years; every time someone appeals a verdict in a criminal case, there is a chance that the federal or state Supreme Court will outline a more specific rule about what police, prosecutors, or judges must do in order for criminal charges to stick.  For example, the Fifth Amendment says that no one acting on behalf of the state can coerce defendants into making self-incriminating statements.  It is only a result of the Miranda v. Arizona court decision in the 1960s, however, that police officers making an arrest must notify defendants of their right to remain silent and not to answer questions from police unless a criminal defense attorney is present.  Just as the outcome of the case can change if the state violated any of the rules, things can also take a turn if the defendant tried to stop the case from proceeding the way it is supposed to.  The idea is that the case will result in a fair trial with a fair outcome if both sides follow the rules.  Here, our Miami criminal defense lawyer explains the many missteps that a defendant might make during a criminal case that could lead to charges of obstruction of justice.

Fighting Your Charges Before the Arraignment

You have the right to remain silent during and after an arrest, and it is in your interest to exercise that right. In fact, you can even be accused of obstructing justice if you lie to a police officer during a traffic stop or after an arrest.  Fleeing on foot or in a vehicle can also count as obstruction of justice, and so can efforts to physically resist an officer who is trying to arrest you.  You can be charged with offenses even more serious than obstruction of justice if you cause serious injury to a law enforcement officer during an arrest.

Attempting to Influence People Connected to the Case

When you are an entrepreneur, being able to talk people into doing things your way is a great asset, but when you are a defendant in a criminal case, it can get you into a lot of trouble.  You can be charged with obstruction of justice if you attempt to bribe a judge, juror, or witness to persuade him or her to do something that would help you get a favorable outcome in your case.  Threatening judges, jurors, or witnesses is even worse.

Tampering With Evidence

We have all seen that scene in Goodfellas where Karen flushes thousands of dollars’ worth of cocaine down the toilet as federal agents approach her house.  Attempting to get rid of incriminating evidence once you know that the authorities suspect you of a crime can also lead to charges of obstruction of justice.  Florida Man social media feeds are full of anecdotes about people doing desperate things to stop the police from finding their drugs, from swallowing potentially lethal doses to chucking a bag of drugs over a fence into a church parking lot in plain view of police and then insisting that possession is nine tenths of the law.

Attempting to destroy evidence is obstruction of justice in other kinds of cases, too, not just drug cases.  For example, burning or burying bloodstained clothing or abandoning it in a different county could lead to obstruction of justice charges, and so could deleting computer files or phone messages that make reference to your alleged illegal activities.

There Is No Such Thing as a Polite Fiction in a Criminal Case

Lying to authorities at age stage during your criminal case makes things much worse, and not only during the initial arrest or questioning.  If you lie on the witness stand or during a sworn deposition, you could be charged with perjury.  You have the right to plead the Fifth Amendment when you are speaking in your capacity as a witness, not only when you are a defendant in a criminal case.  This right even applies in the case of investigations that are still in their early stages, where the state has not yet filed any criminal charges against anyone.

Contact Our Criminal Defense Attorneys

A South Florida criminal defense lawyer can help you if you are facing charges for obstruction of justice.  Contact Ratzan & Faccidomo in Miami, Florida for a free, confidential consultation about your case.



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