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Obstruction of Justice

 

Virginia Code Section 18.2-460 is the Obstruction of Justice statute.  It says:

A. If any person without just cause knowingly obstructs a judge, magistrate, justice, juror, attorney for the Commonwealth, witness, any law-enforcement officer, or animal control officer employed pursuant to § 3.2-6555 in the performance of his duties as such or fails or refuses without just cause to cease such obstruction when requested to do so by such judge, magistrate, justice, juror, attorney for the Commonwealth, witness, law-enforcement officer, or animal control officer employed pursuant to § 3.2-6555, he is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

B. Except as provided in subsection C, any person who, by threats or force, knowingly attempts to intimidate or impede a judge, magistrate, justice, juror, attorney for the Commonwealth, witness, any law-enforcement officer, or an animal control officer employed pursuant to § 3.2-6555 lawfully engaged in his duties as such, or to obstruct or impede the administration of justice in any court, is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

C. If any person by threats of bodily harm or force knowingly attempts to intimidate or impede a judge, magistrate, justice, juror, attorney for the Commonwealth, witness, any law-enforcement officer, lawfully engaged in the discharge of his duty, or to obstruct or impede the administration of justice in any court relating to a violation of or conspiracy to violate § 18.2-248 or subdivision (a)(3), (b) or (c) of § 18.2-248.1, or § 18.2-46.2 or § 18.2-46.3, or relating to the violation of or conspiracy to violate any violent felony offense listed in subsection C of § 17.1-805, he is guilty of a Class 5 felony.

D. Any person who knowingly and willfully makes any materially false statement or representation to a law-enforcement officer or an animal control officer employed pursuant to § 3.2-6555 who is in the course of conducting an investigation of a crime by another is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

E. Any person who intentionally prevents or attempts to prevent a law-enforcement officer from lawfully arresting him, with or without a warrant, is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. For purposes of this subsection, intentionally preventing or attempting to prevent a lawful arrest means fleeing from a law-enforcement officer when (i) the officer applies physical force to the person, or (ii) the officer communicates to the person that he is under arrest and (a) the officer has the legal authority and the immediate physical ability to place the person under arrest, and (b) a reasonable person who receives such communication knows or should know that he is not free to leave.

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As you can see, this offense can be charged as a felony in certain instances.  For purposes of this discussion, we will review the most common misdemeanor offenses under this statute.

A violation of subsection A typically occurs when an individual is interfering in the lawful performance of a police officer's duty.  The caselaw in Virginia states that merely making an officer's job more difficult is not an obstruction.  You must engage in direct action to obstruct justice.  Because of this standard set forth in the law, obstruction cases can be difficult for the Commonwealth to prove.  There is a fine line between being difficult and direct action designed to obstruct.

A violation of subsection B typically occurs when a person is attempting to intimidate a witness or otherwise improperly influence a court proceeding.

A violation of subsection D occurs when an individual makes a materially false statement to law enforcement during the course of a criminal investigation of another person.  Other jurisdictions may prohibit lying to the police regardless of who is being investigated.  Remember, you never have to speak to the police; if you choose to do so, lying to them may be a criminal act.

A violation of subsection E is an obstruction offense that occurs when an individual resist or attempts to resist a lawful arrest.  This offense occurs when the officer either physically attempts to arrest a person or communicates to the person they are under arrest and a reasonable person would realize they were being arrested.  Interestingly, the statute states the officer must have the "immediate physical ability to place the person under arrest" as well.  Therefore, if an officer tells somebody across a street that they are under arrest, it would seem not to violate the statute if the person fled.

If you are charged with Obstruction of Justice, contact a Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorney today.  George Freeman is an experienced and seasoned trial attorney and will gladly meet to discuss your case.  

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