Obstruction of justice occurs when an individual engages in an act designed to impede or obstruct the investigation or trial of other substantive offences. Prosecutors usually are pleased to discover such violations by defendants because they add a more sinister flavour to what might be colourless white-collar charges, and such actions can help to prove criminal intent.
Jurisdictions might have several criminal obstruction statutes, but an examination of every type of obstruction statute is beyond the scope of this text. Therefore, this description focuses on the obstruction statutes most relevant to fraud examinations, which include those that prohibit:
- Influencing or injuring any officer of the court or juror by force, threats of force, intimidating communications, or corrupt influence
- Influencing a juror through a writing
- Stealing or altering records or processes by parties that are not privy to the records
- Using force or threats of force to obstruct or interfere with a court order
- Destroying documents related to a future proceeding
- Tampering with a witness, victim, or an informant (e.g., killing or attempting to kill, using force or threats of force, intimidating, influencing with bribes or other corrupt means, misleading, or harassing the protected parties)
- Influencing, obstructing, or impeding a government auditor in the performance of his official duties
- Obstructing the examination of a financial institution
Obstruction can include crimes committed by judges, prosecutors, attorneys general, and elected officials in general. It is misfeasance, malfeasance or nonfeasance in the conduct of the office. Most commonly it is prosecuted as a crime for perjury by a non governmental official primarily because of prosecutorial discretion.