What Is Obstruction of Justice?

Obstruction of Justice - Kurtz and Blum

Obstruction of justice involves willfully interfering with law and order. It carries hefty penalties. This is why it’s crucial that you hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer to mount a strong defense against the charges you’re facing.

Common Law Definition of Obstruction of Justice

Obstruction of justice refers to the act of willfully preventing, impeding, or hindering legal or public justice. The prosecution must prove two elements to show someone committed this offense:

  • The defendant acted willfully and unlawfully; and
  • The defendant obstructed justice by impeding, obstructing, hindering, or preventing public or legal justice.

Committing common law obstruction of justice typically leads to a class 1 misdemeanor. You could face between one day and 120 days in jail, depending on various factors associated with the case.

Obstruction of justice becomes a felony if one of the following elements are present:

  • The defendant acted with deceit and intent to defraud
  • The crime is infamous
  • The defendant committed the offense with malice and secrecy

Types of Obstruction of Justice Offenses in North Carolina and Penalties

Crimes involving the obstruction of justice in North Carolina often carry significant penalties. Many involve felony-level penalties, which can include a prison sentence and fines. Additionally, many obstruction of justice offenses involve federal crimes, necessitating the legal assistance of a federal criminal defense lawyer

Some of the most common obstruction of justice offenses include:

  • Bribery – Directly or indirectly receiving or consenting to receive a personal advantage of anything of value or a promise for performing or omitting to perform an official act within their official authority is considered bribery in North Carolina. This is a class F felony with a maximum sentence of 59 months imprisonment. 
  • Perjury – Knowingly and willfully making a false statement while under affirmation or oath is perjury. This offense is a class F felony in North Carolina. This crime can be punished by up to 59 months imprisonment.
  • False report to law enforcement officers or agencies – Willfully causing or making a false, unfounded, or deliberately misleading report to a law enforcement agency or officer to interfere with their operation or to obstruct or hinder their performance of duties is illegal in North Carolina. This crime is a class 2 misdemeanor, resulting in one to 60 days in jail.
  • Destroying evidence – Breaking or entering a compartment, cabinet, file, vehicle, building, drawer, structure, or other enclosure containing evidence associated with a court proceeding or criminal offense to alter, steal, or destroy evidence is a criminal act in North Carolina. This offense can carry up to 24 months or probation. 
  • Failure to appear – Willfully failing to appear before a judicial court or any court after release on bail is a crime. If the release involved a felony crime, failing to appear can be charged as a felony. For a misdemeanor offense, the charge could be a class 2 misdemeanor.
  • Intimidating witnesses – Intimidating, attempting to intimidate, or threatening someone summoned or acting as a witness in court or deterring, attempting to prevent, or preventing a witness from attending court is a serious form of obstruction of justice. This offense can carry up to 47 months imprisonment or probation.

Common law obstruction can carry 1 to 120 days, probation, or a fine and costs. False representation can carry 1 to 60 days, probation, or a fine. An experienced criminal defense lawyer will work to reduce or eliminate these possible consequences. 

Our Raleigh Criminal Defense Lawyers Can Help

If you were arrested or charged with lying to the police, bribery, destroying evidence, or another criminal offense in North Carolina, Kurtz & Blum can help. We have been defending clients just like you since 1998. With more than 50 years of combined legal experience, you can feel confident knowing you have someone in your corner who will fight for your freedom and future.

Our legal team collaborates on cases to seek the best possible outcome for those facing a misdemeanor or felony conviction. When you hire Kurtz & Blum, we will provide the personalized one-on-one attention you need and deserve. Do not hesitate to call or reach out to us through our online form for a confidential consultation.

Seth A. Blum is a graduate of Tufts University and Duke Law School. He also holds a Master’s Degree from the Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy Studies. Seth is an experienced trial attorney who is licensed and has tried cases in both North Carolina State and Federal Courts. Seth is an Adjunct Professor of Trial Advocacy at the University of North Carolina School of Law. He regularly teaches other lawyers advanced trial techniques.