Most adults know that they do not need to affirmatively help the police do their job. In other words, a citizen who is not suspected of criminal activity and who is approached by a law enforcement officer seeking information about a recent crime is not under any obligation to provide that officer with information. But can a citizen make the police department’s job more difficult? For instance, can a person help a friend hide an item of evidence the police are looking for, or can a person lie to the police as a way of protecting a family member?
The answer to these questions is a resounding no. A person who willfully impedes or hinders law enforcement activity can find themselves charged with an obstruction offence. Motives in these cases do not matter: so long as it was your purpose to prevent or delay the police in their lawful activity, you have committed an obstruction-related offence and can be punished.
What Types of Obstruction Offences Exist?
There are a variety of obstruction offences with which you can be charged depending on the unique facts of your situation. The possible offences with which you can be charged include:
- Perjury: Perjury occurs when an individual makes a false statement while under oath. For example, if you are a witness in a case and you deliberately state false information, you have committed perjury.
- Obstructing Justice: This is a “catch-all” term that encompasses a wide variety of activity that has the effect of hindering the legal system in some manner. Lying to a law enforcement officer would fall under this heading, as would attempting to impersonate a police officer. Even contacting the victim and attempting to persuade him or her to “drop the charges” can be considered obstructing justice.
- Failing to Comply with Bond/Probation Conditions: If you have been placed on some sort of supervised release either before trial or following a conviction, the court likely imposed certain conditions upon you. Failure to abide by those convictions, such as failing to report when and where you are directed to, can be considered an obstruction offence.
What Should I Do if I am Charged with an Obstruction Offence?
Obstruction-related offences should not be considered a trivial matter or dismissed as a minor offense; depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be ineligible to participate in a diversion program or other out-of-court resolution. This can mean significant fines and periods of incarceration.
Before you run to the police to confess your misdeeds, it is strongly recommended you speak with Nicholas Preovolos at the N.J. Preovolos Law Corporation. You may have certain defenses available to you that could defeat the government’s case against you, but these defenses would be lost if you plead or confess without legal assistance. Nicholas Preovolos has experience in defending individuals facing obstruction-related charges and can help advise you as to the best course of action in your situation. Your initial consultation is free, so contact an experienced Vancouver criminal defence lawyer at N.J. Preovolos Law Corporation today.