Floridians were dismayed to hear that their trust in Police Sergeant Phillip Antico of Boynton Beach was unfounded. He was found guilty of lying to the FBI in an investigation into the beating of an unarmed man. That act of deception could cost Antico up to 20 years in federal prison; the courts do not look kindly upon obstructing justice. If you find yourself facing similar prospects, a good criminal defense attorney may be worth talking to.
What Constitutes Obstruction of Justice?
A number of actions could lead to charges of obstruction in Florida. Essentially, it refers to any behavior that influences or impedes, or attempts to impede, the administration of justice. Specifically, that could include:
- Evidence tampering;
- Witness harassment or tampering;
- Jury harassment or tampering;
- Resisting a law enforcement officer, with or without violent actions;
- False impersonation of a police officer;
- Accessory after the fact;
- Unlawful use of police communications;
- Disobeying lawful orders from law enforcement officers;
- Falsification or destruction of documents;
- Escaping or aiding in an escape.
Criminal Penalties for Obstruction of Justice
The maximum consequences for a guilty conviction in an obstruction case depend on the legal classification of the offense:
- Second Degree Misdemeanor: $500 fine and 60 days in jail. Examples include helping a juvenile escape from a correctional facility and failing to aid an officer.
- First Degree Misdemeanor: $1,000 fine and one year in jail. Examples include resisting arrest (without using violence) and unlawfully using a police badge.
- Third Degree Felony: $5,000 fine and five years in prison. Examples include resisting arrest with violence and intentionally harming a police or fire dog.
- Second Degree Felony: $10,000 fine and 15 years in prison. Examples include aiding in a prison escape by providing tools and impersonating an officer in the commission of a felony.
- First Degree Felony: 10,000 fine and 30 years in prison. Examples include committing a felony that results in a fatality while impersonating an officer.
- Life Felony: $15,000 fine and life in prison. Examples includes using police communications to commit a first-degree felony.
Avoiding Charges of Obstruction
Because circumstances can be interpreted broadly, it is essential that an air of cooperation is plain in any interactions with law enforcement personnel. Belligerent comments, a haughty attitude, or smug remarks may make one feel powerful and self-satisfied, but eventually they may result in charges of obstruction. Officers will interpret your behavior based on past experiences combined with the immediate situation. Exercise your rights without giving law enforcement any ammunition for such a charge.
If You do Face Charges of Obstruction
Whether you are accused of altering documents, resisting arrest, or improper use of police communications, you are facing serious consequences. At Aiken, O’Halloran and Foley, our experienced team of attorneys will work to secure the best possible outcomes for you. If you want an aggressive, undaunted defense, contact us in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Punta Gorda or Sarasota today.