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US Congressional Research Service Report: Obstruction of Justice--An Overview Of Some Federal Statutes (2010)

US Congressional Research Service Report: Obstruction of Justice--An Overview Of Some Federal Statutes (2010)

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Published by wmartin46
Summary

Obstruction of justice is the impediment of governmental activities. There are a host of federal criminal laws that prohibit obstructions of justice. The six most general outlaw obstruction of judicial proceedings (18 U.S.C. 1503), witness tampering (18 U.S.C. 1512), witness retaliation (18 U.S.C. 1513), obstruction of congressional or administrative proceedings (18 U.S.C. 1505), conspiracy to defraud the United States (18 U.S.C. 371), and contempt (a creature of statute, rule and common law). The laws that supplement, and sometimes mirror, the basic six tend to proscribe a particular means of obstruction. Some, like the perjury and false statement statutes, condemn obstruction by lies and deception. Others, like the bribery, mail fraud, and wire fraud statutes, prohibit obstruction by corruption. Some outlaw the use of violence as a means of obstruction. Still others ban the destruction of evidence. A few simply punish “tipping off” those who are the targets of an investigation.

Many of these offenses may also provide the basis for racketeering and money laundering
prosecutions, and each provides the basis for criminal prosecution of anyone who aids and abets in or conspires for their commission.
Summary

Obstruction of justice is the impediment of governmental activities. There are a host of federal criminal laws that prohibit obstructions of justice. The six most general outlaw obstruction of judicial proceedings (18 U.S.C. 1503), witness tampering (18 U.S.C. 1512), witness retaliation (18 U.S.C. 1513), obstruction of congressional or administrative proceedings (18 U.S.C. 1505), conspiracy to defraud the United States (18 U.S.C. 371), and contempt (a creature of statute, rule and common law). The laws that supplement, and sometimes mirror, the basic six tend to proscribe a particular means of obstruction. Some, like the perjury and false statement statutes, condemn obstruction by lies and deception. Others, like the bribery, mail fraud, and wire fraud statutes, prohibit obstruction by corruption. Some outlaw the use of violence as a means of obstruction. Still others ban the destruction of evidence. A few simply punish “tipping off” those who are the targets of an investigation.

Many of these offenses may also provide the basis for racketeering and money laundering
prosecutions, and each provides the basis for criminal prosecution of anyone who aids and abets in or conspires for their commission.

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Published by: wmartin46 on May 07, 2013
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CRS Report for Congress
Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress
Obstruction of Justice: An Overviewof Some of the Federal Statutes ThatProhibit Interference with Judicial,Executive, or Legislative Activities
Charles Doyle
Senior Specialist in American Public LawNovember 5, 2010
Congressional Research Service
7-5700www.crs.govRL34303
 
Obstruction of JusticeCongressional Research Service
Summary
Obstruction of justice is the impediment of governmental activities. There are a host of federalcriminal laws that prohibit obstructions of justice. The six most general outlaw obstruction of  judicial proceedings (18 U.S.C. 1503), witness tampering (18 U.S.C. 1512), witness retaliation(18 U.S.C. 1513), obstruction of congressional or administrative proceedings (18 U.S.C. 1505),conspiracy to defraud the United States (18 U.S.C. 371), and contempt (a creature of statute, ruleand common law).The laws that supplement, and sometimes mirror, the basic six tend to proscribe a particularmeans of obstruction. Some, like the perjury and false statement statutes, condemn obstruction bylies and deception. Others, like the bribery, mail fraud, and wire fraud statutes, prohibitobstruction by corruption. Some outlaw the use of violence as a means of obstruction. Still othersban the destruction of evidence. A few simply punish “tipping off” those who are the targets of aninvestigation.Many of these offenses may also provide the basis for racketeering and money launderingprosecutions, and each provides the basis for criminal prosecution of anyone who aids and abetsin or conspires for their commission.Moreover, regardless of the offense for which an individual is convicted, his sentence may beenhanced as a consequence of any obstruction of justice for which he is responsible, if committedduring the course of the investigation, prosecution, or sentencing for the offense of his conviction.The enhancement may result in an increase in his term of imprisonment by as much as four years.This report is available in abbreviated form—without footnotes, quotations, or citations—as CRSReport RS22783,
Obstruction of Justice: An Abridged Overview of Related Federal Criminal Laws
. Excerpted portions of this report are available as follows: CRS Report RL34304,
Obstruction of Congress: a Brief Overview of Federal Law Relating to Interference withCongressional Activities
; CRS Report RS22784,
Obstruction of Congress: An Abridged Overviewof Federal Criminal Laws Relating to Interference with Congressional Activities
; CRS Report 98-808,
Perjury Under Federal Law: A Brief Overview
; and CRS Report 98-807,
Perjury Under Federal Law: A Sketch of the Elements
. All by Charles Doyle.
 
Obstruction of JusticeCongressional Research Service
Contents
Introduction................................................................................................................................1
 
General Obstruction Prohibitions................................................................................................1
 
Witness Tampering (18 U.S.C. 1512)..........................................................................................1
 
Obstruction by Violence (18 U.S.C. 1512(a))........................................................................2
 
Auxiliary Offenses and Liability.....................................................................................5
 
Obstruction by Intimidation, Threats, Persuasion, or Deception (18 U.S.C. 1512(b)...............9
 
Obstruction by Destruction of Evidence (18 U.S.C. 1512(c))...............................................13
 
Obstruction by Harassment (18 U.S.C. 1512(d))..................................................................14
 
Obstructing Federal Courts (18 U.S.C. 1503)............................................................................16
 
The Omnibus Provision.......................................................................................................16
 
Interfering with Jurors or Judicial Officials (18 U.S.C. 1503)..............................................19
 
Auxiliary Offenses and Liability.........................................................................................21
 
Obstructing Congressional or Administrative Proceedings (18 U.S.C. 1505)..............................22
 
Retaliating Against Federal Witnesses (18 U.S.C. 1513)............................................................24
 
Conspiracy to Obstruct (18 U.S.C. 371)....................................................................................26
 
Conspiracy to Defraud........................................................................................................27
 
Conspiracy to Commit a Substantive Offense......................................................................27
 
Contempt..................................................................................................................................28
 
Criminal Contempt of Court................................................................................................28
 
Criminal Contempt........................................................................................................31
 
Contempt of Congress.........................................................................................................35
 
Statutory Contempt of Congress....................................................................................35
 
Inherent Contempt of Congress.....................................................................................40
 
Contempt of Court at Congressional Behest..................................................................41
 
Obstruction of Justice by Violence or Threat.............................................................................41
 
Violence and Threats Against Officials, Former Officials, and Their Families(18 U.S.C. 115)................................................................................................................41
 
Violence and Threats Against Federal Officials on Account of the Performance of Their Duties.....................................................................................................................44
 
Obstruction of Justice by Bribery..............................................................................................46
 
Bribery of Jurors, Public Officers and Witnesses (18 U.S.C. 201)........................................46
 
Obstruction by Mail or Wire Fraud (18 U.S.C. 1341, 1343, 1346)........................................49
 
Obstruction by Extortion Under Color of Official Right (18 U.S.C. 1951)...........................52
 
Obstruction of Investigations by Bribery (18 U.S.C. 1510(a))..............................................53
 
Obstruction of Justice by Destruction of Evidence.....................................................................53
 
Obstruction of Investigations by Destruction of Evidence (18 U.S.C. 1519).........................54
 
Destruction of Property to Prevent Seizure (18 U.S.C. 2232(a))...........................................57
 
Destruction of Corporate Audit Records (18 U.S.C. 1520)...................................................57
 
Obstruction of Justice by Deception..........................................................................................58
 
Perjury in a Judicial Context (18 U.S.C. 1623)....................................................................58
 
Perjury Generally (18 U.S.C. 1621).....................................................................................63
 
Subornation of Perjury (18 U.S.C. 1622).............................................................................66
 
False Statements (18 U.S.C. 1001)......................................................................................66
 

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