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What does obstruction of justice mean?

| May 17, 2021 | Criminal Defense

When federal agencies investigate the company you work for, it can be a frightening time. You may have heard why they are investigating, or you may have no idea. Yet, if you are not careful, you could find yourself facing charges.

When your boss asks you to do something, you probably do it. While there may be exceptions, too many refusals would likely cost you your job. Yet doing something your boss asks during an investigation could lead to you facing charges of obstruction of justice.

Obstruction of justice refers to actions that hinder the authorities in their investigation. If your boss tells you to run out the back and burn a set of folders because the police are coming up the stairs, it would be foolish to comply. You would have difficulty convincing a court that you were “just doing your job.” Yet, not all examples are as clear.

Imagine you do not know that law officials are investigating the company. Your boss suggests you throw out some old folders as part of a general tidy up. Or they ask you to take an old laptop, clear all the information and donate it to the local school. When the federal authorities find you destroyed evidence, they may assume you knew what you were doing. They may charge you with obstruction of justice.

What makes an action obstruction of justice?

For a court to convict you of obstruction, the prosecution needs to prove three things. First, there was an investigation. Second, you knew about it and third, you had a “corrupt intent” to interfere with it. If any of those three things do not apply, you should be able to overturn the charges with legal help.