Obstruction of Justice

Obstruction of justice is generally defined as the interference with the orderly administration of law and justice, such as by giving false information to a law enforcement officer or by harming or intimidating a witness or juror.

Washington, DC

There are six different types of offenses falling within the definition of obstruction of justice in D.C.

In order to secure a conviction for Threatening, Intimidating, or Corruptly Persuading a Juror, the government must prove that:  (1) the complainant was a juror or prospective juror in DC, (2) the defendant knew that the complainant was a juror or prospective juror, (3) the defendant intimidated or threatened the juror or prospective juror , and (4) the defendant did so with the intent to influence, intimidate, or impede the juror/prospective juror in the exercise of his/her duties.

Threatening, Intimidating, or Corruptly Persuading a Witness or Officer consists of 4 elements.  Specifically, the government must prove that:  (1) the complainant was a witness or officer in a court proceeding, (2) the defendant knew or believed that the complainant was a witness or officer in a court proceeding, (3) the defendant intimidated or threatened the witness or officer, and (4) the defendant did so with the intent to influence the complainant’s testimony in some way.  “Threatening” is defined as anything having a reasonable tendency to intimidate an ordinary person.

In order to prove Harassing Another Person, the government must prove that:  (1) the defendant harassed the complainant, (2) the defendant did so with the intent to hinder, delay or prevent the complainant from testifying in a court proceeding or from reporting a criminal offense.   “Harassing” is defined as threatening, intimidating, or using physical force against a person or to use any words or actions that would have a reasonable tendency to badger, disturb or pester an ordinary person.

There are four elements to the criminal offense of  Injuring Witness or His Property.   The government must prove that:  (1) the defendant injured or threatened to injure either the complainant or his property, (2) the injury or threatened injury was because the complainant had given information to a criminal investigator, (3) the information had been given during the course of a criminal investigation, and (4) the information related to a violation of a criminal statute then in effect in D.C.

In order to prove Injuring a Witness, Juror, or Court Officer or Damaging His/Her Property, the government must prove that:  (1) the defendant injured or threatened to injure the complainant or his property, and (2) the actions were because the other person performed his/her official duty as a witness, juror, or court officer.

Obstructing the Due Administration of Justice consists of (1) the defendant obstructing or impeding or attempting to obstruct or impede the due administration of justice in a pending court proceeding or investigation and (2) the defendant doing so by threats of force or with intent to undermine the integrity of the pending proceeding or investigation. For the D.C. Court of Appeal’s most recent decision interpreting this statute, please click here.

The penalty for a conviction of obstructing justice in D.C. is imprisonment of three to 30 years and/or fine of up to $10,000.  D.C. Criminal Code § 22-722(a).

Virginia

Included under the general category of “Interference with Justice,” there are multiple forms of obstruction of justice in Virginia.

Obstructing of Justice in relation to a law enforcement officer includes three elements.  First, the government must prove that the defendant used threats or force.  Second, the government must prove that the defendant knowingly attempted to intimidate or impede a law enforcement officer.  Finally, the government must prove that the law enforcement officer was lawfully engaged in his/her official duties.  The penalty for a conviction of obstructing justice in relation to a law enforcement officer is confinement in jail for up to 12 months and/or a fine of $2,500.   Virginia Criminal Code § 18.2-460(B).

The obstruction of justice as a felony offense consists of an attempt, by threat or force, to obstruct or impede the administration of justice in any court relating to a violent felony offense and certain drug and gang-related offenses.  In this case, the offense is a Class 5 felony punishable by one to 10 years incarceration, confinement in jail for up to 12 months, and/or a fine of up to $2,500.  Virginia Criminal Code § 18.2-460(C).