Interfering with the prosecution or investigation of a crime is obstruction of justice. The penalties for committing such an act vary greatly but can net violators up to five years in prison.
Understanding the types of obstruction of justice can reduce the odds of violations.
It is against the law to help someone evade the police. Hiding someone so that person avoids arrest is an obvious example. Warning someone of an imminent investigation is also obstruction of justice. Providing notice that authorities are coming gives a suspect time to form an alibi or flee the scene.
Delivering false information is another type of obstruction of justice. Television and TV dramas are responsible for familiarizing audiences with the concept of perjury. Lying under oath during a grand jury is only one form of deception that garners charges. Being untruthful under questioning and creating false documents are others.
Eliminating proof of a criminal violation is, in itself, a crime. Examples include burning, ripping, concealing, and smashing material items proving a crime. Also forbidden is deleting digital records and communications relating to an investigation. It does not matter whether they exist on a computer or phone. Witness tampering is another form of evidence destruction. Any undue influence on testimony, such as bribery and coercion, could alter the results of a trial.
The court system lacks tolerance for any form of interference with the legal process. Everyone should behave in a manner that avoids accusations of obstruction of justice.