Clicky

Charlotte NC Attorneys at Law
Rosensteel Fleishman

Obstruction of Justice

Obstruction of justice crimes in North Carolina are serious and potentially punishable on a felony level. A person convicted of an obstruction of justice crime can receive a punishment of months or years in prison. If you have been charged with obstruction of justice, an experienced defense attorney can help determine the best course of action for you. Call Mr. Rosensteel so that he can begin examining your case as soon as possible.

There is an obstruction of justice crime which exists at common law, and North Carolina statutes contain several additional obstruction of justice crimes.

 

Common Law Obstruction of Justice

Common law obstruction of justice is defined as “any act which prevents, obstructs, impedes or hinders public or legal justice.” To show that a person committed common law obstruction of justice, the following elements must be proven:

  • the defendant obstructed justice performing an act that prevents, obstructs, impedes, or hinders public or legal justice.
  • the defendant acted unlawfully and willfully.

 

Generally, the offense of common law obstruction of justice is a Class 1 misdemeanor. North Carolina statute provides that a person who commits a Class 1 misdemeanor receives a sentence between 1 day and 120 days, depending on their prior convictions. A person with no prior convictions cannot receive more than a 45-day sentence, and this sentence must be community punishment. However, it is possible for a person with one or more prior convictions to receive active jail time as a punishment.

If certain additional elements are present, the offense of common law obstruction of justice can constitute a felony. For common law obstruction of justice to be a felony, one of the following elements must be present:

  • the offense is infamous.
  • the offense is done in secrecy and malice.
  • the offense is done with deceit and intent to defraud.

 

If a person commits felony common law obstruction of justice, he is guilty of a Class H felony. North Carolina law provides that a person who commits a Class H felony must receive a sentence between 4 and 25 months, depending on the person’s prior convictions. A person with no prior convictions may receive a community or intermediate punishment, but the court is permitted to sentence any person convicted of a Class H felony to active jail time.

Common law obstruction of justice is a broad offense and can take a variety of forms. One example of common law obstruction of justice is where a superior court judge attempts to prevent the convening of a grand jury to indict him. However, common law obstruction of justice extends beyond interfering with pending proceedings. The North Carolina Supreme Court held that defendants who created false entries and deleted other entries in a medical chart of a deceased patient committed common law obstruction of justice, even though at the time of the creation and deletion of entries, the plaintiff was only beginning to investigate the patient’s death and there were no legal proceedings pending or threatened. The Court reasoned that the altering of the medical record undermined the plaintiff’s investigation of his right to seek a legal remedy.

North Carolina courts subsequently extended this reasoning to apply in a case where a North Carolina state representative filed campaign finance reports which did not disclose more than $150,000 in contributions and $76,000 in transfers from the campaign account to the representative’s personal account. The court determined that the representative committed common law obstruction of justice because he “deliberately hindered the ability of the [State Board of Elections] and the public to investigate and uncover… whether [he] was complying with campaign finance laws. … Further, his false reports concealed illegal campaign activity from public exposure and possible investigation.”

 

Altering or Destroying Evidence

A person is guilty of a Class I felony if he:

  • breaks or enters any enclosure with the purpose of altering, destroying or stealing evidence relevant to a criminal offense or court proceeding, or
  • alters, destroy or steals such evidence.

 

Evidence is defined as any “article or document in the possession of a law-enforcement officer or officer of the General Court of Justice being retained for the purpose of being introduced in evidence or having been introduced in evidence or being preserved as evidence.”

North Carolina law provides that a person who commits a Class I felony must receive a sentence between 3 and 12 months, depending on the person’s prior convictions. A person with no prior convictions must receive a community punishment, but the court is permitted to sentence a person with prior convictions to active jail time.

 

Lying to Police Officers

If a person willfully makes or causes to be made to a law enforcement officer a false, deliberately misleading, or unfounded report, for the purpose of interfering with, hindering, or obstructing the law enforcement officer in the performance of his duty, he is guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor. The punishment for a Class 2 misdemeanor ranges from 1-60 days, depending on prior convictions. A person with no prior convictions can be sentenced to up to 30 days, but this punishment must be community punishment.

If a person makes a false, deliberately misleading, or unfounded report relating to an investigation involving either the disappearance of a child (less than 16 years old) or a child victim (less than 16 years old) of a Class A, B1, B2 or C felony offense, that person is punished as a Class H felon. North Carolina law provides that a person who commits a Class H felony must receive a sentence between 4 and 25 months, depending on the person’s prior convictions. A person with no prior convictions may receive a community or intermediate punishment, but the court is permitted to sentence any person convicted of a Class H felony to active jail time.

 

Resisting Officers

A person is guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor if he willfully and unlawfully resists, delays, or obstructs a public officer in discharging or attempting to discharge a duty of his office. The punishment for a Class 2 misdemeanor ranges from 1-60 days, depending on prior convictions. A person with no prior convictions can be sentenced to up to 30 days, but this punishment must be community punishment.

Resisting a public officer does not only include resisting a lawful arrest by a police officer. A person can violate this statute by obstructing a law enforcement officer from directing traffic, obstructing a building inspector from inspecting the wiring in a building, or obstructing a probation officer from making a home visit. For a person to violate this section, he must know or have reasonable grounds to know that the victim is a public officer.

 

Harassment of Jurors

A person is guilty of a Class H felony if he harrasses, intimidates, or communicates with a juror or a juror’s spouse with the intent to influence the official action of the juror. North Carolina law provides that a person who commits a Class H felony must receive a sentence between 4 and 25 months, depending on the person’s prior convictions. A person with no prior convictions may receive a community or intermediate punishment, but the court is permitted to sentence any person convicted of a Class H felony to active jail time.

A person is guilty of a Class I felony if he threatens or intimidates a former juror or a former juror’s spouse as a result of a prior official action of the former juror. North Carolina law provides that a person who commits a Class I felony must receive a sentence between 3 and 12 months, depending on the person’s prior convictions. A person with no prior convictions must receive a community punishment, but the court is permitted to sentence a person with prior convictions to active jail time.

The term “juror” includes a grand juror, a petit juror or any person who has been drawn or summoned to attend as a prospective juror.

 

Intimidating Witnesses

A person is guilty of a Class G felony if he threatens, intimidates, or attempts to intimidate a person summoned or acting as a witness in any court, or if he prevents or deters, or attempts to prevent or deter a witness from attending court. North Carolina law provides that a person who commits a Class G felony must receive a sentence between 8 and 31 months, depending on the person’s prior convictions. A person with no prior convictions may receive an intermediate punishment, but the court is permitted to sentence any person convicted of a Class G felony to active jail time.

If a person is a defendant in a criminal proceeding and he threatens a witness with the assertion or denial of parental rights, such threat violates the intimidating witnesses statute.

If you have been charged with obstruction of justice, contact an attorney at Rosensteel Fleishman, PLLC (704) 714-1450, to discuss your options.