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Obstruction of Justice

NCJ Number
American Criminal Law Review Volume: 49 Issue: 2 Dated: Spring 2012 Pages: 1037-1078
Jessica Pettit; Nicole Mortorano; Carrie Tennant
Date Published
42 pages
This article addresses Federal legislation against obstruction of justice, defined by Black's Law Dictionary as any "interference with the orderly administration of law and justice."
This area of Federal law is covered by 18 U.S.C. sections 1501-1521, which provide for the protection of the integrity of proceedings before the Federal judiciary and other governmental bodies. This article focuses on the sections given the most expansive treatment by courts: sections 1503, 1505, 1510, 1512, 1513, 1519, and 1520. Section 1503 is known as the Omnibus Obstruction Provision because it applies to a broad range of conduct. It protects jurors and judicial officers from threats, intimidation, and retaliation. Section 1505 applies to conduct similar to that addressed by section 1503, but pertains to Federal agency proceedings rather than court proceedings. Section 1510 extends to potential witnesses the protection provided by sections 1503 and 1505. After discussing the scope and elements of section 1503, the article reviews the acts prosecuted under this section, the venue for prosecution, and defenses to section 1503, followed by a discussion of penalties. Statutes similar to the Omnibus provisions are then summarized: sections 1505, 1510, and 1518. A separate part of the article addresses similar topics for sections that address witness tampering (sections 1512 and 1513). Corporate accountability (sections 1519 and 1520) is addressed in another part of the article. Topics covered are scope and elements of section 1519, corporate audit records addressed in section 1520, defenses, and penalties. The concluding part of the article briefly discusses section 3C1.1 of the U.S.S.G. Manual, which indicates that if a defendant willfully obstructs, impedes, or attempts to obstruct or impede the administration of justice, the base offense level of the crime at issue can increase by two levels. 287 notes