Obstruction of justice is a crime under federal and Kentucky law. It generally involves someone making false statements or taking actions to delay or prevent a criminal investigation, prosecution or some government law enforcement action. It can involve government officials, those who work in law enforcement and criminal justice systems, as well as private citizens.
Usually obstruction of justice charges are brought against elected officials, law enforcement officers, prosecutors and judges, but these charges can also be filed against those outside of government if it can be shown that they prevented justice from being served in criminal or civil courts or by a government agency. Obstruction of justice can include witness intimidation or retaliation, false testimony, falsification of evidence and interference with court personnel.
A wide range of people can be charged for Kentucky obstruction of justice
Obstruction of justice doesn’t involve a crime against a person or property — it’s a crime against the administration of justice and government functioning. The laws are intended to protect the integrity of legal proceedings and protect those taking part in the proceedings. Below are example cases of individuals who have been found guilty of obstruction of justice.
One recent example of an obstruction of justice conviction is that of Kevin Asher, a former supervisory deputy jailer at the Kentucky River Regional Jail, according to the federal Department of Justice. He was convicted by a jury of multiple charges relating to the beating of a detainee by himself and another deputy jailer, in November 2012. The charge stems from the false report Asher submitted to jail management concerning the detainee’s injuries, which he falsely claimed were the result of the man’s slipping and falling. He was sentenced to serve 108 months in prison.
Perhaps one of the most publicized obstruction of justice convictions was that of Martha Stewart, model turned business owner/domestic guru celebrity, in 2004. She faced charges of obstruction of justice after allegedly lying to the federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) about stock trades. It was alleged that she traded stock on inside, non-public information and profited as a result. Though she wasn’t charged with insider trading, she was convicted of obstruction of justice based on false statements she made to SEC investigators, according to Forbes. She was sentenced to serve five months in prison and five months of home confinement.
The last example is a college friend of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev pled guilty to obstruction of justice and was sentenced to six years in prison in 2015, reports the New York Daily News. Dias Kadyrbayev removed a computer and a backpack containing fireworks that were partially emptied of explosive powder from Tsarnaev’s dorm room when he recognized Tsarnaev in photos released by the FBI after the bombing. Kadyrbayev also threw the backpack into a garbage dumpster.
Federal and Kentucky obstruction of justice laws
Under Kentucky law, obstruction of justice is called “obstructing governmental operations” (519.020).
- A person is guilty of obstructing governmental operations when he intentionally obstructs, impairs or hinders the performance of a governmental function by using or threatening to use violence, force or physical interference.
- This section shall not apply to:
- Any means of avoiding compliance with the law without affirmative interference with governmental functions; or
- The obstruction, impairment or hindrance of unlawful action by a public servant; or
- The obstruction, impairment or hindrance of an arrest.
(3) Obstructing governmental operations is a Class A misdemeanor.
A Class A misdemeanor is punishable by 90 days to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $500.
Under federal law, obstruction of justice is the frustration of governmental purposes by violence, corruption, destruction of evidence or deceit. There are several federal laws covering obstruction of justice, including 18 U.S. Code Title 73, which covers:
- Influencing or injuring an officer or juror
- Obstruction of proceedings before departments, agencies and committees
- Obstruction of court orders
- Obstruction of criminal investigations
- Obstruction of state or local law enforcement
- Tampering with a witness, victim or informant
- Retaliation against a witness, victim or informant.
Potential consequences for a conviction under federal charges of obstruction of justice vary depending on the act that was taken, up to and including life imprisonment or the death penalty if a murder was committed.
To be convicted of obstruction of justice the prosecution needs to show:
- There was a legal or government proceeding that could be obstructed
- There is a clear link between the attempts to obstruct and the proceedings
- The defendant was aware of this link.
What to do if you’re facing Kentucky obstruction of justice charges
If you are being investigated for or charged with obstruction of justice, speak to a Lexington criminal defense attorney immediately who understands the law and how your rights can be protected. A knowledgeable advocate in your corner who will thoroughly review and investigate your situation can make all the difference. Kentucky obstruction of justice lawyer Dan Carman provides aggressive representation with proven results to clients throughout the state in communities such as Richmond, Winchester, Georgetown and Nicholasville. A native of Lexington and a graduate of the University of Kentucky College of Law, Dan is dedicated to helping those in his community who may find themselves struggling against criminal accusations. Contact him today by calling (859) 838-1415 or filling out this online contact form.