Recently, ‘obstruction of justice’ has appeared all over the national news. But what exactly does it mean? At its broadest level, obstruction of justice is the crime of interfering with legal officials or the legal process. This charge can be levied in relation to obstruction at all levels of the legal system, from local prison guards and police officers to Congressional and FBI investigations. Obstruction is a serious accusation that, if convicted, carries harsh penalties. Here’s a brief primer on what you need to know about the crime of ‘obstruction of justice’ in the state of Georgia.
What Is a ‘Law Enforcement Officer’?
When most people think of a ‘law enforcement officer’, they think of a conventional police officer. According to Georgia law, however, a wide variety of legal and government officials are considered law enforcement officers, including:
- Prison guards
- Correctional officers
- Community supervision officers
- Probation officers, including juvenile probation officers
- Conservation rangers
What Qualifies as ‘Obstruction of Justice’?
Criminal charges of obstruction can be levied for a variety of offenses. Some common examples include:
- Resisting arrest or punishment
- Running from an officer
- Lying to an officer
- Giving false or misleading information to an officer
- Hindering law enforcement activity
- Interfering with an investigation
- Witness tampering
- Tampering with evidence
- Threatening an officer
- Committing violence on the person of an officer
What Happens If I’m Convicted of Obstruction?
According to Georgia criminal code § 16-10-24, most types of obstruction are classified as misdemeanor crimes. Those convicted face a minimum $300 fine (up to $1,000), up to one year in prison, or both.
Violence against an officer constitutes a felony offense, and defendants found guilty of this charge face a minimum of one year in prison. Subsequent convictions for this offense carry even heavier minimum sentences, including longer minimum prison sentences.
More recently, the state of Georgia has added a provision to the law classifying throwing, projecting, or expelling certain types of biological materials on or at an officer as a felony offense. If convicted, defendants face a minimum of one to five years in prison.
As with all criminal offenses, misdemeanor and felony, a conviction will remain on your permanent record for life.
Have You Been Arrested for Obstruction of Justice?
Georgia courts treat obstruction of justice very seriously, and the consequences of conviction can be dire and long lasting. The process of defending against obstruction charges is legally complex. When facing charges of obstruction, it is strongly recommended that you seek the counsel of a qualified criminal defense attorney.
David Schnipper has extensive experience practicing on both the prosecutorial and defense side of the criminal legal process, and can bring this experience to bear in providing you with the strongest defense available in the greater Atlanta area. If you are facing obstruction charges,