“False Bail” and Theft of Federal Court Record Crimes

On September 21, 1869, The New York Times reported that charges had been filed against one C.M. Case, “it being alleged that he made false oath on a bail bond for the release of a counterfeiter named HENRY WOODS.” The report went on to note that Mr. Case was himself held on a $15,000 bail, an enormous sum back then equivalent to about $325,000 today.

The Crime of “False Bail”

In 1869, Mr. Case was charged with perjury for making the false oath; today, he would likely be charged with the crime of “false bail,” which is included with the crime of theft or alteration of court records under 18 U.S.C. § 1506. False bail also covers cases where someone claims to be a representative of a bail bond service but is not, where they create a false bail bond record to try to get someone else released, and where they claim to be a surety for another person's bail when in fact they are not. Essentially, if you claim to be someone who is responsible for making sure someone else's bail will be paid, but you're not, you could find yourself charged with the crime of false bail.

Theft or Alteration of Court Records

The other part of the false bail statute makes it a crime to steal or alter court records. While much of the documentation used in court cases is now imaged and stored online, making theft more difficult, there are still many documents that exist on paper in their original form. When used as evidence in a civil or criminal case, these originals become important if only to act as confirmation that the image being displayed on courtroom monitors is an accurate representation of the original paper document. Because the defense typically has a right to review the actual paper document if the prosecution intends to offer it as evidence, in cases where the original has been stolen, it can make it much more difficult for the prosecution to be able to prove to the judge's satisfaction that the image the government wants to use in evidence (whether displayed on a screen or printed out as a hard copy) is a “true and accurate representation” of the original.

Similarly, if court documents have been altered – whether in their original paper form or by accessing and manipulating a digital image – the integrity of the document is destroyed. This covers all manner of court records, including court clerk orders, judicial opinions and orders, motion papers, transcripts of hearings and trials, and evidence on file with the court.

You May Do Time

The crime of false bail (including stealing or altering court records) is a felony. If convicted, you could be sentenced to up to five years in federal prison and fined up to $250,000.

It's All About Obstruction

The false bail statute falls under the category of “Obstruction of Justice” and is one of a series of laws designed to discourage people from interfering with the administration of justice. The crimes in this category range from assaulting process servers to picketing near a courthouse with the intent to interfere with the administration of justice, to witness or juror tampering, to obstructing federal audits, and more. Federal prosecutors in Pennsylvania (as well as in other states) frequently add obstruction of justice charges to other charges if the government believes that the defendant actively interfered with the investigation of the underlying crime. For example, a defendant who uses a computer to access and alter court records could be charged with violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act as well as obstruction of justice under 18 U.S.C. § 1506.

You Need a Strong Advocate

If you have been charged with bail fraud, theft or alteration of court records, or any other federal crime, you need an advocate who has experience with these kinds of difficult and serious cases. Joseph D. Lento has years of experience defending clients against federal charges brought in all three of Pennsylvania's federal districts and elsewhere. This background has given him a deep understanding of how federal criminal cases work, how prosecutors think, and how trials are conducted in federal court.

Federal prosecutors have limited resources; there are far fewer assistant US attorneys prosecuting federal crimes than there are assistant district attorneys prosecuting state crimes. This means that if your case has their attention, it's because they think it's important and that they will win. That's why you need a skilled attorney who knows the law, can help you understand your situation, and will make sure the government plays by all of the rules.

Joseph D. Lento is that attorney. Let him use his years of experience defending clients charged with federal crimes to help you. Contact Joseph D. Lento today at 888.535.3686 or through the Lento Law Firm contact form.

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Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the Lento Law Firm today! Criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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