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Obstruction of Justice

Obstruction of Justice

A person commits the offense of obstruction of justice if he or she intentionally or knowingly harms or threatens to harm a public servant, a witness, an informant, or a person who intends to report a crime. The harm or the threat to harm may be in retaliation for services that have been rendered by the public servant, the witness, the informant, or the person who reported a crime. The harm or the threat to harm may also seek to prevent or to delay the services of the public servant, the witness, the informant, or the person who intends to report a crime. A public servant may be a governmental officer, employee, or agent, a juror or a grand juror, an arbitrator or a referee, an attorney or a notary public, a political party official or a political candidate, or anyone who is performing a governmental function. A person is a public servant even if he or she has only been elected to office and has not assumed the duties of his or her office.

The term “harm” in the offense of obstruction of justice includes anything that may be regarded as a loss, a disadvantage, or an injury. It may also include harm to another person if the person is related to the other person. The person who is threatened does not need to be present when the threat is made.

Obstruction of justice is a specific intent offense. The elements of the offense are an intent to cause harm or to threaten to cause harm or an intent to prevent or to delay the services of a public servant, a witness, an informant, or a person who intends to report a crime. The mere fact that a person conducted an act that resulted in the harm or the prevention or delay of the services does not constitute obstruction of justice. The issue is whether the person conducted the act with the intent to cause harm or to prevent or to delay the services.

Where the offense of obstruction of justice includes the element of retaliation, the prosecution is required to prove that the harm or the threat to cause harm was in retaliation for the services of the public servant, the witness, the informant, or the person who reported a crime. The prosecution must prove that the harm resulted from retaliation for services that were already performed by the public servant, the witness, the informant, or the person who reported a crime.

A witness for the purpose of the offense of obstruction of justice is any person who may testify in an official proceeding. The term “witness” includes a prospective witness. A prospective witness is any person who was involved with a defendant in the commission of an offense, who saw the defendant committing the offense, or who overheard the defendant discussing the offense. The prospective witness does not have to testify at a later proceeding.

An informant for the purpose of the offense of obstruction of justice is any person who has communicated information to a governmental entity. The informant may be a paid informant or may be a victim who has reported a crime to the governmental entity.

The offense of obstruction of justice is normally classified as a felony. If the person who has been harmed or who has been threatened with harm is a juror, the offense may be classified as a more serious felony.

Copyright 2013 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.

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