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Obstruction of justice in North Carolina: What that means

| Apr 12, 2021 | Criminal law

Someone you care about has made a mistake and committed a crime. You want to help, naturally — but you need to be careful about what you do. Otherwise, you could find yourself facing charges of your own.

For example, a Florida man was recently arrested on a variety of charges related to sexual contact with a minor in North Carolina. More interestingly, his wife was also arrested. While she’s not accused of having any sexual contact with the minor herself, she’s been charged with obstruction of justice for taking “affirmative steps” to conceal her husband’s crime.

It doesn’t take much for an obstruction of justice charge to stick

While it’s unclear exactly what the woman did to get an obstruction charge, it didn’t have to be much. Loosely defined, obstruction is any act that subverts the ordinary course of the legal system. In North Carolina, some of the things that can be counted as obstruction include:

  • Altering evidence of a crime (for example, changing a date stamp on a photo)
  • Removing evidence of a crime (like taking someone’s clothes because you don’t want DNA evidence collected from them)
  • Destroying evidence outright (deleting text messages, videos or chat conversations that could incriminate your friend or relative)
  • Lying to the police (while you can remain silent, you cannot purposely mislead the authorities with your statements)
  • Harassing or threatening a witness (for example, threatening to hurt a witness, their family or their pets if they don’t recant their statements)
  • Interfering with a witness (pleading with them and trying to make them feel guilty about testifying about a crime)

While these aren’t the only acts that can result in obstruction charges, they are fairly common — and to be avoided at all costs — unless you’re willing to risk a felony conviction.

What if you made a mistake?

If you made a mistake and tried to help your friend or relative out of concern (or fear for your own safety), it’s time to get help. You need to speak to a defense attorney — hopefully, before the police speak to you.