What Is “Obstruction of Justice” in Utah?

Criminal investigations and proceedings related to prosecution are very serious matters. While the authorities and prosecutors often rely on the assistance of lay people in these proceedings, it is important to stay out of these matters unless you are needed. Sometimes, people interfere with an investigation or a trial to prevent a defendant from being prosecuted.

Obstruction of justice may be charged when a person knowingly interferes with some criminal proceedings. Obstruction is often done for the benefit of a criminal defendant and is designed to hamper investigations or court hearings. Things like destroying evidence, preventing the police from accessing a suspect, or warning a suspect of an impending investigation may lead to criminal charges.

If you are charged with obstruction of justice, your charges will vary based on the severity of the underlying case with which you allegedly interfered. Our Utah criminal defense attorneys can help you defend yourself against these charges. Call us at Overson & Bugden at (801) 758-2287 to set up a free legal consultation.

Obstruction of Justice in Criminal Proceedings in Utah

A person commits obstruction of justice when they do something to intentionally hinder, impair, or slow down a criminal investigation or proceeding. A person may obstruct justice in a variety of ways, some serious and some relatively small. The important thing is that the defendant intended to hinder the proceedings or investigation. Accidentally interfering with a criminal investigation is likely not to be considered an obstruction of justice.

According to Utah Code § 76-8-306, obstruction of justice can be accomplished in the following ways:

  • Providing someone with a weapon
  • Preventing another from providing aid or assistance to a criminal investigation or proceeding by force or intimidation
  • Altering, destroying, or concealing an item
  • Using or presenting an item you know to be fake or false
  • Hiding someone
  • Assisting someone in avoiding apprehension
  • Warning someone of impending arrest
  • Warning someone about an authorization or order allowing interception of communications or wiretapping
  • Concealing non-privileged information after being ordered by a judge to provide the information
  • Providing false information to an investigation

To be convicted, a defendant must know that their conduct hinders a criminal investigation or criminal proceedings. If your actions happen to accidentally impede an investigation, you cannot be charged with obstruction of justice. This conduct also applies only in situations involving criminal offenses. If you obstruct or hinder proceedings or investigations for something other than a crime, like a civil action, you will not be charged with obstruction of justice. However, there may be other consequences for deliberately interfering with civil proceedings. Call our Park City criminal defense lawyers for assistance.

How Is Obstruction of Justice Charged in Utah?

There is no single way that obstruction of justice is committed. So, it makes sense that there is no one way to charge a person with obstruction of justice. Generally, the nature of your charges will depend on the nature of the underlying criminal offense. Essentially, if you hinder the investigation or proceedings for a more serious offense, your charges for obstruction of justice will be more severe.

Obstruction of justice may be charged as a second-degree felony when the underlying criminal offense is a capital offense punishable by the death penalty or a first-degree felony. Capital offenses and first-degree felonies are perhaps the most severe offenses a person can be charged with. Interfering with an investigation or a proceeding associated with such charges is very severe and will be charged accordingly.

Obstruction of justice may instead be charged as a third-degree felony if the underlying criminal offense is a second or third-degree felony and the defendant commits acts (b) through (f) mentioned above. Obstruction can also be charged as a third-degree felony if the underlying criminal offense constitutes any crime other than a capital offense or first-degree felony, the obstruction is committed in a court of law, or involves warning someone of an interception of wire communications.

Any obstruction of justice that is not mentioned above may be charged as a Class A misdemeanor. If you fear you will be charged, contact our Ogden criminal defense lawyers for help.

Penalties for Obstruction of Justice in Utah

As stated previously, obstruction of justice charges can range from Class A misdemeanors to second-degree felonies. As such, the penalties and consequences for obstruction of justice will vary depending on the nature of your charges.

Class A misdemeanor charges, perhaps the least serious charge for obstruction of justice, may be punished by a jail term of no longer than 364 days. A defendant could also be fined up to $2,500. For third-degree felony charges for obstruction of justice, a defendant may be sentenced to prison for no more than 5 years and possibly pay fines of up to $5,000. Finally, second-degree felony charges for obstruction of justice may be met with a prison term of at least 1 year and no more than 15 in addition to fines of up to $10,000.

If you are facing any charges for obstruction of justice, you need to speak with an attorney right away. The penalties for such an offense can be very severe. Our Utah obstruction of justice defense lawyers can help.

Defenses to Charges for Obstruction of Justice in Utah

A significant element of obstruction of justice is that the actions of the defendant were knowing and intentional. You must be aware that your actions will inhibit criminal proceedings. If you did not realize the extent of the consequences of your behavior, that a criminal investigation or other proceedings could be affected, you might have a defense to your charges.

There is also a fine line between obstruction because of an intentional act and a lack of action. Most cases of obstruction involve deliberate actions taken by the defendant. However, people are usually not required to assist an investigation unless ordered by a judge or magistrate. Unless placed under arrest, people typically do not have to interact with the authorities or answer questions. If you believe you were charged with obstruction of justice because you elected not to speak with investigators regarding an alleged offense, you may be able to fight your charges.

Keep in mind, it is not a defense to obstruction of justice charges that you did not know about the level of penalties for your actions. For any help with your case, call our Logan criminal defense lawyers.

Call Our Obstruction of Justice Defense Attorneys

If you are charged with obstruction of justice, you could be facing some very serious consequences. Our Murray criminal defense attorneys can help you challenge the case against you. Call Overson & Bugden at (801) 758-2287 to arrange a free legal consultation.