Obstruction of Justice Can Be Difficult to Prove
White Collar Criminal Defense By Harvey Binnall PLLC - 2019/01/17 at 01:58pm
Contact an Alexandria White Collar Defense Attorney for Help
Many white collar defendants are surprised to find that they have been charged with the obstruction of justice. When attempting to lock down a business organization for criminal violations, prosecutors can be a bit messy and excessive in their approach — they are quick to use a bludgeon rather than a scalpel, so to speak.
For example, in investigating supposed violations for insider trading, prosecutors may charge you with obstructing justice for deleting relevant files and email communications, even if your actions were not intended to disguise any malfeasance.
At Harvey & Binnall, PLLC, we approach white collar defense with an aggressive and fearless litigation mindset. Prosecutors know that our attorneys are willing and able to take a case all the way to trial, and as such, understand that they cannot put you in a vulnerable bargaining position without proof of a violation.
Basics of an Obstruction of Justice Violation
Obstruction of justice is a criminal violation in every state jurisdiction, and under federal law. It can be broadly defined as the intentional interference (by the defendant) of the work of prosecutors, law enforcement authorities, and other government officials involved in an official judicial, legislative, or administrative proceeding.
Common examples of obstruction of justice violations include, but are not necessarily limited to the following:
- Destruction, alteration, or concealment of evidence
- Bribing officials involved in the proceeding at-issue
- Providing false information to law enforcement authorities
- Intimidating and/or coercing witnesses
- And more
Prosecutors Must Prove Both Intent and Knowledge
Oftentimes, prosecutors have insufficient evidence to establish proof of each element necessary to successfully prosecute an individual for obstruction of justice. Given the high standard of proof required in criminal litigation, it may be unnecessary to seek a plea deal, as the government may simply withdraw the charge (or decline bringing charges at all).
In the obstruction of justice context, prosecutors tend to have difficulty proving both intent and knowledge. Let’s briefly explore these concepts.
For prosecutors to successfully convict you of obstruction of justice, they will have to show that you not only engaged in activities that caused an obstruction of justice, but that you actually intended to obstruct the proceeding. Intent can be quite difficult for a prosecutor to establish, as they will have to comb through documents or identify witnesses who can testify that you expressed an intent to interfere with the proceedings at-issue.
Conviction also requires knowledge. “Knowledge” in the obstruction of justice context means both knowledge of the fact that an official proceeding was going on at the time that the defendant engaged in obstructing behavior, as well as knowledge of the link between their behavior and the proceeding at-issue.
For example, a defendant might delete emails without knowing that the information within the emails is linked to an official proceeding. They might be well aware that there is, in fact, an official proceeding pending, but not of the connection between the email and the proceeding at-issue. This will effectively shield them from white collar criminal liability.
Speak to an Experienced Alexandria White Collar Defense Attorney for Assistance
Harvey & Binnall, PLLC is a boutique white collar defense firm located in Alexandria, VA and serving clients throughout Virginia, Maryland, and the DC Metro region.
Our team of attorneys has decades of experience advocating on behalf of those who have been accused of and charged with various white collar crimes, including obstruction of justice violations. Over the years, we have developed a keen understanding of the tactics employed by prosecutors and how to effectively secure a favorable result for our clients.