Minnesotans can be charged with obstructing justice under the following conditions:
- Interfering or preventing a legal process, whether civil or criminal
- Resist or interfere with a peace officer performing duties
- Interfere with a firefighter performing duties
- Interfere with medical emergency responders attempting to provide care
- Threaten or perform obstructive activities to prevent a Department of Revenue representative from performing duties
Obstruction of justice charges can result in severe penalties. Potential penalties vary, depending on the individual characteristics of each case. Least severe cases have the potential of spending up to 90 days in jail with the possibility of a fine up to $1,000. The most severe case, which involves the qualifier of the defendant being aware that their actions could have created a risk to others of death, bodily injury or serious property damage, involves penalties of up to 5 years in jail with the possibility of up to $10,000 as a fine.
One of the most common actions of obstruction of justice that occurs almost daily, is the act of giving a law enforcement officer a false name. Many citizens may not realize this is actually a crime. Perhaps the folly of youth may cause a young person to blurt out a silly made up name as a “joke”. However, a law enforcement officer can also exercise his or her right to not find such a joke funny and charge that individual with obstruction of justice.
Giving a false name to law enforcement personnel can be classified as a misdemeanor, or a gross misdemeanor, obstruction of justice:
- Misdemeanor – involves giving a false name, false birthdate, false identification card, or illegally altered identification card to law enforcement personnel during a lawful investigation, traffic stop, arrest or inquiry.
- Gross Misdemeanor – involves giving the name and birthdate of another individual to law enforcement personnel during a lawful investigation, traffic stop, arrest or inquiry. Also includes the act of giving a false name or birth date to any court official during a criminal proceeding.
Other actions that have nothing to do with identification or direct interference with the duties of first responders, yet can still result in obstruction of justice charges are:
- Escaping custody
- False report of a crime
- Interference with a dead body
- Tampering with evidence
- Witness tampering
Although an obstruction of justice charge may seem minor, only a misdemeanor, even a misdemeanor conviction establishes a criminal record for a person. Any criminal history, even minor charges and convictions, can severely affect a person in areas of pursuing higher education or career opportunities. Also, should the unthinkable happen and a person, later on, get charged with another crime, any prior charges or convictions, even misdemeanors, affects the outcome of those later charges.
If an individual is facing a misdemeanor obstruction of justice charge, they should take the situation seriously. This is not a traffic violation. A person should not expect to walk into a courtroom, present themselves to a judge and expect to effectively argue their case for dismissing the charges. If charged with obstruction of justice a person should seek a lawyer to argue on their behalf.
If you are in need of representation in an obstruction of justice case, please contact us. With the right attorney by your side a strategy can be developed to argue and defend your case effectively and aggressively. A skilled attorney could get charges dismissed or, if convicted, affect the penalty outcome significantly in your favor.
Obstruction of justice is a charge to be taken seriously. Even if only a misdemeanor, a conviction on a person’s record will affect them in many ways for years to come, perhaps throughout their entire life. Whether the action was a simple misunderstanding or a willful act to interfere, it is important to stage the most vigorous defense possible in order to protect your liberties and future opportunities.
Disclaimer: The content of this article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Please contact Jennifer Speas to discuss the specifics of your case.