Obstruction is not caused by minor lies says Fairfax criminal lawyer
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Obstruction of justice is not proven when minor lies briefly sidetrack police, says Fairfax criminal lawyer
Obstruction of justice is among the least desirable Virginia Class 1 misdemeanor to be convicted of, versus the less serious-sounding crimes of disorderly conduct or trespassing. As a Fairfax criminal lawyer, I know that charges of obstruction of justice and disorderly conduct can be catch-all accusations when police want to charge a crime but do not know what other crime(s) to charge. On July 16, 2019, the Virginia Court of Appeals confirmed that obstruction of justice is not committed by doing nothing more than telling police minor lies that briefly sidetrack them from their investigation at hand. Maldonado v. Virginia, ___ Va. App. ___ (2019).
Fairfax criminal lawyer on the definition of obstruction of justice
Misdemeanor obstruction of justice is committed if a person “without just cause knowingly obstructs” a police officer, judge, magistrate, juror, prosecutor, or witness, or “fails or refuses without just cause to cease such obstruction when requested to do so” by any of said persons. Va. Code § 18.2-460(A). Misdemeanor obstruction of justice also is committed “by threats or force, knowingly attempt[ing] to intimidate or impede” any of the foregoing persons. Va. Code § 18.2-460(B). Additionally, such a misdemeanor is committed by knowingly and willfully making “any materially false statement or representation to a law-enforcement officer … who is in the course of conducting an investigation of a crime.” Va. Code § 18.2-460(D). Finally, misdemeanor obstruction is committed by any person “intentionally prevents or attempts to prevent a law-enforcement officer from lawfully arresting him, with or without a warrant.” Va. Code § 18.2-460(E). Maldonado, supra, addresses the meaning of Va. Code § 18.2-460(A).
Virginia criminal attorney on the elements of the first subsection of the statute
Va. Code § 18.2-460(A) requires the following tw0-step analysis: “First, the evidence must be sufficient for a rational fact finder to conclude that the accused’s ‘actions did, in fact, prevent a law-enforcement officer from performing his duties.’ Id. Second, the evidence must be sufficient for a rational fact finder to conclude that the accused acted with an intent to obstruct—i.e., prevent—an officer from performing his or her duty.” Maldonado.
The Virginia Court of Appeals concluded that the above-referenced first prong of obstruction of justice under § 18.2-460(A) was not met: “Maldonado … initially falsely denied that [his son and suspect] Everardo was present in the home. While Maldonado’s actions resulted in a delay in the interview of Everardo of approximately forty minutes, the record does not reflect how this delay
constituted a significant impediment to the investigation.” Maldonado.
As a Fairfax criminal lawyer, I find Maldonado to be a good source for limiting obstruction of justice from being a runaway catchall criminal charge.
Fairfax criminal lawyer Jonathan L. Katz has successfully defended thousands of people charged with felony, misdemeanor and DUI offenses. To discuss your case with Jon Katz, please call his staff at 703-383-1100 to schedule a confidential consultation, which usually is free.