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Monday, November 22, 2010

Obstruction of Justice: An Abridged Overview of Related Federal Criminal Laws

Charles Doyle
Senior Specialist in American Public Law

Obstruction of justice is the frustration of governmental purposes by violence, corruption, destruction of evidence, or deceit. It is a federal crime. In fact, it is several crimes. Obstruction prosecutions regularly involve charges under several statutory provisions. Federal obstruction of justice laws are legion; too many for even passing reference to all of them in a single report.

The general obstruction of justice provisions are six: 18 U.S.C. 1512 (tampering with federal witnesses), 1513 (retaliating against federal witnesses), 1503 (obstruction of pending federal court proceedings), 1505 (obstruction of pending Congressional or federal administrative proceedings), 371 (conspiracy), and contempt. In addition to these, there are a host of other statutes that penalize obstruction by violence, corruption, destruction of evidence, or deceit.

Moreover, regardless of the offense for which an individual is convicted, his sentence may be enhanced as a consequence of any obstruction of justice for which he is responsible, if committed during the course of the investigation, prosecution, or sentencing for the offense of his conviction. The enhancement may result in an increase in his term of imprisonment by as much as four years.

This is an abridged version of CRS Report RL34303, Obstruction of Justice: An Overview of Some of the Federal Statutes That Prohibit Interference with Judicial, Executive, or Legislative Activities, without the footnotes, quotations, or citations to authority found in the longer report.

Date of Report: November 5, 2010
Number of Pages: 10
Order Number: RS22783
Price: $29.95

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