What is the Obstruction of Court Orders?
It is a crime to use threats or force against another person in order to stop them from following a court order. Interfering in any way with someone's exercise of their rights as set out in a court order can lead to serious consequences. If someone attempts to interfere with the order of a federal court, then they can face a federal criminal charge in addition to the potential consequences of the violation itself.
A court can issue a variety of orders in a federal criminal case. These include pre-trial orders such as bail, search warrants, and arrest warrants; trial orders regarding jury instructions and evidentiary rulings; sentencing orders including restitution, supervised release conditions, and fines; post-jurisdiction orders concerning sentence modifications and motions for new trials. Additionally, the court may also make orders for the forfeiture of property or the application of civil penalties. All of these court orders must be followed in order to avoid legal consequences. If you are facing a federal criminal charge, then it is important to speak to an experienced federal criminal defense attorney right away.
What are the Potential Penalties for Obstructing a Court Order?
Obstruction of court orders is a criminal offense under 18 USC § 1509, and it carries serious potential penalties. If convicted, one could face up to a year in jail along with fines assessed by the court. Those convicted may also be responsible for restitution to any victims and payment of court costs. In addition, convictions under this section can lead to civil sanctions such as asset seizure or injunctions against further violation of court orders. The underlying actions that are alleged to obstruct a court order can also result in separate criminal charges if any laws are alleged to have been broken by an individual who has been given court orders to follow.
What Charges are Related to Obstructing a Court Order?
There are several other potential criminal charges that are available for actions that obstruct a court proceeding or case, including:
- 18 USC § 1510 – Obstruction of Criminal Investigations
- 18 USC § 1511 – Obstruction of State or Local Law Enforcement
- 18 USC § 1516 – Obstruction of a Federal Audit
- 18 USC § 1517 – Obstructing Examination of a Financial Institution
- 18 USC § 1518 – Obstruction of Criminal Investigations of Health Care Fraud
- 18 USC § 1520 – Destruction of Corporate Records
It is also federally illegal to retaliate against any witness or threaten them in any way under 18 USC § 1513.
What are Some Common Defenses to the Obstruction of Court Orders?
Under 18 USC § 1509, the defenses against an allegation of obstruction of a court order are limited to four main grounds, which include:
- The defendant was not aware that the order was for judicial proceedings and may have believed that it was not related to any pending legal matter;
- The defendant had no reasonable means to comply with the order;
- The defendant took reasonable steps to comply with the order as soon as practicable; or
- The defendant acted in good faith at all times while attempting to fulfill their obligations under the court order.
In some cases, additional defenses may be considered if they can demonstrate a lack of knowledge regarding their actions and thus lack the mental state required to commit the crime of obstruction. Furthermore, depending on the jurisdiction, statutory exceptions such as public officials engaging in official duties or participants in emergency relief activities can be applied as viable defenses against allegations of obstruction. In some cases, a lack of knowledge is not a defense, and the simple action or inaction of the individual under the jurisdiction of a court and its orders can result in a conviction.
In What Court Will Your Case Be Heard?
Cases involving federal law in the United States are heard in the relevant federal district court. In Pennsylvania, those include the Central, Middle, and Eastern District Courts. The particular court your case is heard depends on your geographical location. For instance, if an alleged federal narcotics violation takes place in either the Central or Eastern Districts, then it would be tried in either the Middle District Court or Eastern District Court, respectively. If you are accused of obstructing a court order in either the Central or Eastern District Courts of Pennsylvania, then your criminal proceedings will likely take place in that same court unless your alleged actions took place in another district. Likely take place in that same court unless your alleged actions took place in another district.
What If I Want to Appeal?
If you disagree with a decision made in a federal district court, you can take the matter to the relevant appellate court. The United States Third Circuit Court of Appeals oversees appeals from Pennsylvania's Middle and Eastern Districts, while the Supreme Court is the highest court in the land.
How Hiring an Experienced Attorney Can Help
If you're facing a federal obstruction charge, it's critical to have experienced legal counsel on your side. An experienced lawyer can assess your case, advise you on the best course of action, and help you make important decisions, such as whether to go to trial or negotiate with the prosecution. If you need help with this serious issue, reach out to the Lento Law Firm for more information.
Why Hiring the Lento Law Firm is the Right Choice
If you are being prosecuted for obstruction of a federal court order, then it is important to speak to an experienced federal criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has defended people facing criminal charges in several jurisdictions. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 or contact online to learn why hiring the Lento Law Firm is the right choice to help you defend your case.