Interfering with the criminal justice system can be obstruction of justice.

Obstruction of Justice May Consist of Any Attempt to Hinder the Discovery, Apprehension, Conviction, or Punishment of Anyone Who Has Committed a Crime.

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Your Best Defense to Obstruction of Justice Allegations

Under Michigan and federal law, obstruction of justice encompasses a broad range of activities that interfere with the operations of the courts and the administration of justice. These activities can include tampering with witnesses, jurors, or evidence; destroying or concealing physical evidence; lying to law enforcement officers; and any other actions intended to hinder a criminal investigation or prosecution. The charges and penalties for obstruction of justice and the available defenses can vary significantly based on the nature of the obstruction, the jurisdiction, and whether the charge is filed under state or federal law.

Michigan Obstruction of Justice Charges and Penalties

In Michigan, obstruction of justice is not defined by one specific statute but can be charged under various laws depending on the conduct involved. For example:

  • Tampering with Evidence: Can lead to felony charges with penalties of up to 4 years in prison and/or fines.
  • Resisting or Obstructing a Police Officer: This is a felony charge that can result in penalties of up to 2 years in prison and/or fines, depending on the circumstances and whether any injury occurred.
  • Perjury: Giving false testimony under oath can lead to a felony charge, with penalties of up to 15 years in prison.

Federal Charges and Penalties

Under federal law, obstruction of justice is covered under several statutes, including but not limited to:

  • 18 U.S.C. § 1503 (Obstruction of Justice): This statute covers a broad range of obstructive acts directed at judicial proceedings. Penalties can include fines and imprisonment of up to 10 years.
  • 18 U.S.C. § 1512 (Tampering with Witnesses, Victims, or Informants): Conviction under this statute can result in severe penalties, including up to 20 years in prison for certain acts of tampering.
  • 18 U.S.C. § 1519 (Destruction, Alteration, or Falsification of Records in Federal Investigations): This statute carries penalties of up to 20 years in prison for knowingly destroying or altering documents with the intent to obstruct a federal investigation.

The specific circumstances of the alleged obstruction, such as the intent behind the actions and the impact on the judicial process, play a significant role in determining the charges and penalties. Due to the complexity of these laws and the serious potential penalties involved, individuals facing obstruction of justice charges should seek experienced federal defense counsel.

A skilled criminal defense attorney can navigate the complexities of obstruction charges, whether under Michigan or federal law and work to protect the rights and freedoms of the accused. The legal team at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C., with their depth of experience and knowledge, is well-equipped to provide the vigorous defense required in such cases.

An Example of an Obstruction of Justice Charge

The Obstruction of Justice sentence enhancement was dealt with in the recent case of US v Collins. The defendant was charged with participating in a conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine. He was accused of traveling to Indiana to pick up items needed to manufacture the drug. He testified in his defense. The jury found him not guilty of making that trip but convicted him of several other offenses. Even though Mr. Collins was found not guilty of traveling to acquire materials to make methamphetamine, the judge enhanced Mr. Collins’ sentence because he believed the defendant obstructed justice by lying under oath when he testified. His lawyer filed an appeal to further defend his obstruction of justice case.

The defendant appealed to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals and argued that it was improper for the judge to assume that he lied under oath regarding the travel to Indiana when the jury acquitted him of that count. The Court of Appeals held that the enhanced sentence was proper, stating, “[e]ven though the jury failed to find that the defendant committed the conduct beyond a reasonable doubt, the burden of proof for sentencing enhancements remains a preponderance of the evidence.”

Even though a jury found the defendant not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the law permits his sentence to be increased if the judge is convinced by a lesser standard than the defendant lied about it under oath.

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Defense Strategies for Obstruction of Justice Charges

When facing obstruction of justice charges, the stakes are high, and the complexities of the law demand a nuanced defense strategy. A skilled criminal defense attorney can employ several approaches to protect your rights and potentially secure a favorable outcome. Here’s an insight into the strategic defenses that might be utilized:

Challenging the Prosecution’s Evidence: The foundation of a strong defense often lies in rigorously examining the evidence presented by the prosecution. This can involve questioning the evidence’s reliability, legality, and relevance, mainly focusing on whether the government can conclusively prove you had the specific intent to obstruct justice.

Arguing Lack of Intent: A key element required for an obstruction of justice charge is the intent to obstruct. Demonstrating that your actions were misunderstood, misinterpreted, or lacked the requisite intent to interfere with the judicial process can be a powerful defense. This strategy involves showing that any actions taken were lawful and did not have the purpose of obstructing justice.

Highlighting Procedural Errors: Every step in the investigative and prosecutorial process must adhere to strict legal standards. Identifying and highlighting any procedural errors, such as violations of your Fourth Amendment rights during evidence collection, can lead to the suppression of evidence or, in some cases, the dismissal of charges.

Asserting Your Constitutional Rights: The Constitution provides several protections that can be relevant in an obstruction of justice case, including the right to free speech and the right to fair legal representation. In certain contexts, actions perceived as obstructive could be argued as exercising constitutional rights, requiring a delicate balance to ensure these rights are not infringed upon.

Negotiating Plea Agreements: When the evidence against you is strong, negotiating a plea agreement might be the most strategic option. An experienced defense attorney can work to negotiate the terms of such an agreement, aiming for reduced charges or advocating for alternative sentencing that mitigates the impact on your life and livelihood.

Utilizing Mitigating Factors: Even if the prosecution’s case is strong, presenting mitigating factors to demonstrate good character, lack of prior criminal history, or other circumstances can influence the severity of sentencing.

Each case requires a tailored approach, drawing on the specifics of the alleged conduct and the available evidence. The legal team at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. excels in crafting defense strategies that address the unique aspects of each case, employing our extensive experience and deep legal knowledge to advocate for our clients effectively. Facing obstruction of justice charges can be daunting, but with the right defense strategy, there is hope for a resolution that protects your future.

Proven, Effective, Complex Criminal Defense Litigation

Courts take interference with the law and the court systems, referred to as Obstruction of Justice, seriously. If you face obstruction of justice or any other criminal charge, you need to have a criminal defense team in your corner capable of successfully handling complex criminal matters.

In cases with complex or multiple allegations or important legal issues, there is a great advantage to having a team of lawyers collaborate and work together to achieve the best possible result. Most defense lawyers are solo practitioners, and they cannot provide the same level of service or results compared to multiple lawyers working together towards a common goal. The Defense Team with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. is comprised of multiple experienced defense lawyers, paralegals with decades of experience handling criminal cases, highly effective private investigators, and experts from a variety of fields. We take time to role-play courtroom hearings, debate factual and legal issues, and brainstorm potential defenses and strategies. There is no substitute for a team working together to protect and defend you.

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Why do you want to hire LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C.?

A criminal conviction can have far-reaching consequences. A conviction can affect your freedom, finances, family, job, and future. When there is so much at stake, relying on the criminal law defense firm of LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C is essential. The firm’s lawyers are well respected, proven effective, and highly successful in court. The firm’s lawyers are regular speakers at legal conferences and have received multiple awards for excellence. Do not trust your fate to the lowest bidder when you have so much to lose. Consider this: what is the cost of not hiring a top criminal defense attorney? If you face obstruction of justice charges or any criminal allegation, your best hope of getting charges dismissed and avoiding a harsh sentence is with highly skilled, experienced defense counsel.

Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete an online Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.

We will find a way to help you and, most importantly,
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