Obstruction of Justice in Florida
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Have you been accused of obstructing justice in conjunction with a trial, court procedure, police investigation or other legal matter? Contact Musca Law today to discuss your matter with an experienced defense attorney. The Florida criminal defense attorneys at our firm have over 150 years of combined legal experience, and we offer a free case evaluation to discuss your particular case and what we can do to help you. Our legal team works together to utilize our individual strengths and therefore provide even more effective legal representation throughout the entire state.
Florida Obstruction of Justice Charges
There are numerous ways that one may commit the crime of obstructing justice. Also referred to as “obstruction of justice,” this offense involves an action or inaction done for the purpose or with the end result of hindering law enforcement, prosecutors, courts or other governmental agencies.
Some of these offenses are listed below:
- Resisting an officer
- Neglect or refusal to aid police officers
- Falsely impersonating a police officer
- Escape through negligence or voluntary action of an officer
- Possession of a concealed handcuff key
- Delivering tools to jail to aid in escape
- Failure to appear after release on bail
- Fleeing or attempting to evade law enforcement
- Offenses against police animals
- Providing the private information of a police officer
- Unlawful use of police communications
- Depriving the victim of a crime of medical care
There are numerous types of specific offenses that relate to obstructing justice, all listed in Florida Statutes, Chapter 843.
Resisting and Obstructing Police Officers in Florida
Ultimately, the punishment for resisting arrest can vary depending on the severity of the confrontation between a suspect and the arresting officer. As indicated in Florida Statute Title XLVI Chapter 843.01 and 843.02, here is a closer look at the punishment awaiting people who commit this crime:
- Chapter 843.01: Any individual who violently resists an arrest conducted by a police officer or any legal personnel will be charged with a 3rd-degree felony, resulting in a $5,000 fine and/or 5 years of imprisonment.
- Chapter 843.02: Any individual who resists an arrest (without violence) conducted by a police officer or any legal personnel will be charged with a 1st-degree misdemeanor, resulting in a $1,000 fine and/or imprisonment for 1 year.
Resisting Arrest: With or Without Acts of Violence
Legally, there is a difference between the charges of Resisting an Officer Without Violence (a first-degree misdemeanor which is punishable by 364 days in prison) and Resisting an Officer with Violence (a third-degree felony which is punishable by up to five years in prison).
The charge of Resisting an Officer is usually an add-on charge, meaning that the police officer adds this on top of other existing charges. At times, it is an officer’s last-ditch attempt to find something to charge a person with, and most individuals don’t even know that this charge was added. Even if a prosecutor finds that the charge is meritless, they hesitate to dismiss the charge given that they work very closely with law enforcement as part of their job.
People can face resisting arrest charges by simply tensing one’s arms, walking away, and voicing one’s opinion, among others.
If you have been charged with resisting arrest, contact a seasoned Florida obstruction of justice attorney at Musca Law. We can begin with your case as soon as you schedule a free consultation with one of our skilled Florida criminal defense attorneys. Contact us now at 1-888-484-5057.
Obstruction by Wearing a Disguise
Florida Statute 843.03 – Obstruction by Wearing a Disguise
If you disguise yourself with the intent to obstruct justice by hindering, intimidating, or interrupting an officer or other person in the legal performance of his or her duty, you may face the charge of Obstruction by Wearing a Disguise. In Florida, this crime is punishable as a first-degree misdemeanor and carries with it a penalty of up to one year in prison. The good news is that there are various defenses to this crime, which a seasoned Florida criminal defense attorney at Musca Law can raise on your behalf in order to clear your name.
Under Florida Statute Section 843, there are several ways in which a person can be accused of obstructing justice. This includes punching a police officer, running away, pretending to be a police officer, escaping from prison, or sneaking tools into a prison
Florida Statute Section 843.03 prohibits people from disguising themselves to evade law arrest. For example, a person can be charged with Obstruction by Wearing Disguise if a person puts on a wig and a mustache in order to change their appearance. Simply changing one’s clothes is likely not a violation of this statute because it does not give rise to the level of completely changing one’s appearance.
Moreover, the obstruction must be carried out towards an officer and not just anyone. Under Florida law, an officer is defined as any law enforcement officer, correctional probation officer, correctional officer, auxiliary law enforcement officer, part-time law enforcement officer, or auxiliary corrections officer.
The Elements a Prosecutor Must Prove to Convict a Person of Obstruction by Wearing a Disguise
In order to convict a person of Obstruction by Wearing a Disguise, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt, the following:
- The defendant disguised himself or herself;
- By disguising himself or herself, the defendant had the intention of:
- Obstructing the due execution of the law; or
- Intimidating, hindering or interrupting an officer (the defendant must know or should have known that the individual was a law enforcement officer); and
- The officer was exercising his or her rights under the constitution or the laws of this state.
There are several defenses that can be raised. These include, without limitation, the following:
- The defendant did not know or have reason to know that the individual was a law enforcement officer;
- The defendant has a good reason to change his or her clothes that was not for the purposes of a disguise;
- The defendant’s appearance was not really changed;
- It was warm out and the defendant decided to remove clothes; and
- It was cold out and the defendant put on more clothes.
In Florida, a person who commits the crime of Obstruction by Wearing a Disguise will be convicted of a first-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year in prison and a $1,000 monetary penalty.
Jury Tampering & Witness Tampering
Another type of obstruction of justice is known as tampering, which occurs when an individual interferes or meddles with an investigation of a criminal matter in order to alter the course of the proceedings. There are two forms of tampering, which include:
- Jury tampering. This occurs when an individual, with the intent to obstruct, influences the judgement or decision of a jury on any cause, question, matter, or proceeding. When a person is convicted of this crime, they face a felony of the third degree.
- Witness tampering. Witness tampering can involve several actions. For instance, an individual can be found guilty of witness tampering if he or she uses physical force, intimidation, or threats or attempts to threaten another individual with the intention of causing the person to withhold his or her testimony, document, a record, or other objects from an official proceeding or investigation. Witness tampering also occurs when a person influences another person to destroy, alter or hide something with the intent of preventing the item from being used in an official proceeding or investigation, or when a person influences another person to not testify in a criminal matter.
If you are facing jury or witness tampering charges, it is critical that you have a seasoned Florida criminal defense attorney by your side so that they can fight for your rights and legal interests.
Providing False Information to Law Enforcement
Under Florida Statute Section 837.055, the offense of Providing False Information to Law Enforcement is committed when an individual, both knowingly and willfully, provides false information to a law enforcement officer who is conducting a missing person investigation or a felony investigation with the intention of impeding an investigation or misleading a law enforcement officer. This offense is not like perjury where a person makes a false statement under oath.
A person can face the charge of Providing False Information to Law Enforcement as well as Resisting an Officer Without Violence in the event that he or she provides false information to a law enforcement officer.
In Florida, a person who commits the crime of Providing False Information Law Enforcement faces a first-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year in prison and $1,000 in monetary fines. If the false information provided pertains to a child aged 16 or younger who is missing and who sustained great bodily harm or death, the crime is charged as a third-degree felony, which is punishable by up to five years in prison and $5,000 in monetary fines.
False Information to Law Enforcement in a Criminal Investigation
In Florida, the crime of Providing False Information to Law Enforcement in a Criminal Investigation is a first-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year in prison and $1,000 in monetary fines.
Defenses to Providing False Information to Law Enforcement
In addition to pretrial and trial defenses that can be raised in any criminal matter, there are a number of defenses to the offense of Providing False Information to Law Enforcement, which includes the following:
- Double jeopardy. People can face the charges of Perjury, Providing False Information to Law Enforcement, and Resisting an Officer Without Violence, all of which punish the same crime (providing false information to the court or law enforcement). Notwithstanding, a person can only be convicted of one of these crimes due to double jeopardy protections.
- Unit of prosecution. A person can only face a single offense for providing false information during an interview with law enforcement, even if he or she provides several false statements. However, if a person provides false information in a number of interviews, the person can face prosecution for each interview.
Tampering with Evidence in Florida
In Florida, the crime of Tampering with Evidence occurs when an individual who has knowledge of a current criminal investigation, damages or destroys evidence to impair its ability to be used in the investigation.
Definition of Tampering with Evidence
Under Florida Statute Section 918.13, the crime of Tampering with Evidence is committed when a person, knowing that a criminal trial, proceeding, or investigation by a duly constituted prosecuting authority, law enforcement agency, grand jury or legislative committee of this state is pending or is about to be instituted, shall:
- Alter, destroy, conceal, or remove any record, document, or thing with the purpose to impair its verity or availability in such proceeding or investigation; or
- Make, present, or use any record, document, or thing, knowing it to be false.
Penalties for Tampering with Evidence
Tampering with Evidence constitutes a third-degree felony in the state of Florida, which carries with it a prison sentence of up to five years and a $5,000 monetary penalty.
Defenses to Tampering with Evidence
In addition to pretrial and trial defenses that can be raised in any criminal matter, the defenses to the offense of Tampering with Evidence are as follows:
- Removing from Body. Throwing away evidence from one’s person, including throwing drugs on the ground when police are present, does not qualify as Tampering with Evidence. This crime can only be charged if someone changes or destroys evidence.
- Unofficial investigation or proceeding. A person can only be charged with Tampering with Evidence if he or she changes or destroys evidence in the midst of an official criminal investigation. The crime does not apply if a person tampers with evidence used in an unofficial proceeding or investigation, such as a disciplinary investigation conducted by a licensing board or school.
Illegally Possessing and Concealing a Handcuff Key
Florida Statute Title XLVI Chapter 843.021 (2) dictates that any individual who illegally possesses a key for a pair of police handcuffs will be charged with a 3rd-degree felony, punishable by a $5,000 fine and/or imprisonment of no longer than 5 years.
Here is a closer look at the terminology surrounding a crime of this nature:
- “In custody” refers to a moment when a law enforcement officer places handcuffs on a suspect (even if the individual has not formally been arrested).
- “Handcuff key” refers to any device or tool that has been designed to unlock and remove handcuffs.
- “Concealed handcuff key” refers to a handcuff key that is withheld by a suspect as part of an intention to hide this key from a police officer. These items can include handcuff keys concealed in shoes, socks, shirts, pants, hose, undergarments, jewelry, hats, gloves, and any other accessories.
Refusing to Help Prison Officers Arrest Convicts Who Have Escaped from Prison
As outlined in Florida Statute Title XLVI Chapter 843.04 (1-2), any individual (both civilian and officer alike) who refuses to help a prison officer arrest an escaped convict will be charged with a 1st-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a $1,000 fine and/or prison time that doesn’t exceed 1 year.
Refusing to Help Peace Officers
As indicated in Florida Statute Title XLVI Chapter 843.06, any citizen or officer who is required to assist a member of the Florida Highway Patrol, a police officer, watchman, or other officer of the peace and refuses to provide required assistance will be charged with a 2nd-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a $500 fine and/or prison time that does not exceed 60 days.
Allowing a Criminal to Escape Confinement
Ultimately, jailers or other officers in charge of criminals can be punished in one of two ways if they allow these criminals to escape confinement, as indicated in Florida Statutes Title XLVI Chapter 843.09 and 843.10:
- Chapter 843.09: If any jailer or law enforcement official who willingly helps a convict escape custody will be charged with a 2nd-degree felony, punishable by a $10,000 and/or a prison sentence that does not exceed 15 years.
- Chapter 843.10: If any jailer or law enforcement official who allows a convict to escape custody by accidental means (negligence) will be charged with a 1st-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a $1,000 fine and/or imprisonment that does not exceed 1 year.
Helping a Criminal Escape Prison in Florida
As indicated in Florida Statute Title XLVI Chapter 843.11, any individual who provides the necessary items (tools, weapons, disguises, etc.) to help a criminal escape from prison or provides assistance to a prisoner who has the necessary resources to escape (already) will be charged with a 2nd-degree felony, punishable by a $10,000 fine and/or prison time that does not exceed 15 years.
Likewise, any individual who assists a prisoner who was not charged with a capital offense will be charged with a 1st-degree misdemeanor, punishable by $1,000 fine and/or prison time that does not exceed 1 year.
Under the same Statute, if the escapee uses the weapon or tool against an officer or commits any other crime while attempting to escape, the person who provided the weapon or tool will face punishment that the Florida Law has imposed for this activity.
Failure of a Defendant on Bail to Appear in a Florida Court
As indicated in Florida Statute Title XLVI, Chapter 843.15, any individual who has been released (in accordance with Chapter 903) voluntarily fails to appear in a Florida court or before any officer of the state justice system shall be denied any security that was provided for his/her release and shall faces the following forms of punishment:
- If the individual was released on the charges of a felony or awaiting a conviction for a crime of this nature, he or she will be charged with a 3rd-degree felony, punishable by a $5,000 fine and/or imprisonment of no longer than 5 years.
- If the individual was released on the charges of a misdemeanor (under the same conditions), he or she will be charged with a 1st-degree misdemeanor, punishable by $1,000 fine and/or prison time that does not exceed 1 year.
Revealing a Police Officer’s Private Information
As indicated in FS Title XLVI, Chapter 843.17, any individual who spitefully (with a full intention to obstruct the upholding of Florida Law, or interrupt a police officer as he/she is conducting legal duties) released that police officer’s private information (specifically a home address and phone number) without the permission or authorization of this individual will be charged with a 1st-degree misdemeanor, punishable by $1,000 fine and/or prison time that does not exceed 1 year.
Taking Part in an Offense against a Police Animal
Besides the men and women of law enforcement, you must also keep in mind that animals who are trained and dispatched by state authorities are also protected by similar laws. Ultimately, these animal officers include police dogs, fire dogs, SAR dogs, and police horses (typically).
As FS Title XLVI, Chapter 843.19 indicates, any individual who takes part in an offense against a police animal will be punished by one of two means:
- Individuals who intentionally hurt or kill a police animal will be charged with a 3rd-degree felony, punishable by a $5,000 fine and/or imprisonment of no longer than 5 years.
- Individuals who intentionally slap or inflict injuries on a police animal will be charged with a 1st-degree misdemeanor, punishable by $1,000 fine and/or prison time that does not exceed 1 year.
- Individuals who intentionally harass, provoke, or tease a police animal or interfere with this agent’s line of work will be charged with a 2nd-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a $500 fine and/or prison time that does not exceed 60 days.
Here is a closer look at the animals that are protected by Florida State Law:
- “Police dog” refers to a dog that is owned and has been trained by a law enforcement agency to assist officers with the detection of crimes.
- “Police horse” refers to a horse that is owned and has been trained by a law enforcement agency to help officers detect, identify, and intercept crimes.
- “Fire dog” refers to a dog that is owned and employed by a fire department, a fire district, or the Fire Marshal to aid firefighters in the exposure of flammable items or the examination of situations involving fires.
- “SAR dog” refers to a dog that operates as a search and rescue agent that is owned and/or trained by a fire department agency, police agency, or the Fire Marshall for the purpose of rescuing people who are trapped in materials as a result of an accident.
Unlawfully Using Police Communication Devices
As dictated by Florida Statute Title XLVI Chapter 843.167, no civilian of the State of Florida is allowed (by law) to intercept police communication to help another person commit a crime or to reveal the whereabouts and/or purpose of a police communication device will be charged with varying counts (depending on the severity of a crime):
- Individuals who intercept police communications will be charged with a 2nd-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a $500 fine and/or prison time that does not exceed 60 days. These individuals may also face charges of a 1st-degree misdemeanor.
- Individuals who steal a police communications device will be charged with a 1st-degree misdemeanor, punishable by $1,000 fine and/or prison time that does not exceed 1 year.
Intentionally Ignoring a Crime Victim Who Requires Medical Attention
Florida Statute Title XLVI Chapter 843.21 (1-2) dictates that any individual who takes a victim of a crime into custody or has control over this person in an attempt to keep this person from receiving medical attention in an attempt to deter an investigation of this crime will be punished in one of two ways:
- If the victim’s medical condition becomes more severe due to a lack of medical attention, the person who has taken this victim into custody will be charged with a 3rd-degree felony, punishable by a $5,000 fine and/or imprisonment of no longer than 5 years.
- If the victim dies as a result of not receiving medical attention, the person who had taken the victim into custody will be charged with a 2nd-degree felony, resulting in a $10,000 fine and/or jail time that does not exceed 15 years.
Resisting an Officer with Violence in Florida
In Florida, the crime of Resisting an Officer with Violence is punished severely and involves heightened penalties on those who commit this serious offense.
Definition of Resisting Officer with Violence
Under Florida Statute Section 843.01, Resisting an Officer with Violence is committed when an individual knowingly and willfully resists, obstructs, or opposes any law enforcement officer by making threats of violence or committing acts of violence against the law enforcement officer during the lawful execution of his or her legal duty.
Definition of Law Enforcement Officer
Under Florida Statute Section 943.10, “Law enforcement officer” means any person who is elected, appointed, or employed full time by any municipality or the state or any political subdivision thereof; who is vested with authority to bear arms and make arrests; and whose primary responsibility is the prevention and detection of crime or the enforcement of the penal, criminal, traffic, or highway laws of the state. This definition includes all certified supervisory and command personnel whose duties include, in whole or in part, the supervision, training, guidance, and management responsibilities of full-time law enforcement officers, part-time law enforcement officers, or auxiliary law enforcement officers but does not include support personnel employed by the employing agency.
Penalties for Resisting Officer with Violence
The offense of Resisting an Officer with Violence constitutes a third-degree felony in Florida, which carries with it a punishment of up to five years in prison and $5,000 in monetary fines.
Defenses to Resisting Officer with Violence
In addition to the pretrial defenses and trial defenses that can be raised in any criminal matter, the defenses to the crime of Resisting Officer with Violence are as follows:
- On The Job. In order for a person to be convicted of Resisting an Officer with Violence, it requires proof that the law enforcement officer was “engaged in the performance of a lawful duty when the resisting occurred,” not just “on the job.” This means that if an officer is working off duty for a private employer such as a convenience store or mall, they are not afforded enhanced protection under the law. However, if the officer, while working for a private employer, becomes engaged in such activities as breaking up a fight, a person who performs acts of violence against the officer can be convicted of Battery of a Law Enforcement Officer.
- Self Defense. A person cannot use violence in the process of resisting a lawful or unlawful arrest, however, he or she can use reasonable force to resist the use of excessive force inflicted upon him or her during an arrest by a law enforcement officer. Outside of an arrest situation, a person also has the right to use reasonable force to defend himself or herself from unlawful actions committed by law enforcement, including if an officer enters a home without a warrant, or unlawfully frisking or detaining someone.
It is important to realize that even if a law enforcement officer engages in unlawful acts, a person who uses force against him or her does so at his or her own risk. This is because the prosecutor will typically side with law enforcement when filing a Resisting Officer With Violence charge.
A person can defend himself or herself if a law enforcement officer uses excessive force while attempting to make an arrest. Moreover, if it appears that an officer will imminently use excessive force or engage in police brutality, the accused can use reasonable force to defend himself or herself. However, a person can only defend himself or herself to the extent that they reasonably believed that such force was necessary based upon the facts and circumstances at the time of the arrest.
Officer’s Status Unknown
A person will face a Resisting Officer with Violence charge if he or she is resisting a police officer who is “known or reasonably appears to be a law enforcement officer.” An individual who is charged with Battery on Law Enforcement Officer must have a reason to know that the “victim” is a law enforcement officer.
While a person is not justified in using force to resist a police officer who is “known, or
Determination of a Valid Case for Obstruction of Justice on the Grounds of Violently Resisting Arrest
As indicated by the Florida Statutes, Chapter XLVI, § 843.01, instructions listed for members of a Criminal Jury highlighted in Case 21.1, members of the court must prove (without any shred of doubt) that:
- The defendant willfully and voluntarily resisted the arresting officer by threatening to inflict violence.
- The arresting officer (victim) had been fulfilling legal duties.
- The arresting officer had been fully authorized to make an arrest.
- The defendant was fully aware this victim was a police officer.
The defendant can claim a defense if the police officer initiated the confrontation through excessive force.
For more information about defense/trial in the Florida Courts, review Chapter 21 of Criminal Jury Instructions as provided by the Florida Supreme Court.
Fight for a Successful Outcome with a Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer!
It is dangerous to be accused of any type of criminal offense. Your freedom is at stake and your future is on the line. Your family will also be affected, particularly if you are the primary wage-earner. Your reputation, as well as personal and professional relationships, will likely suffer. If you or someone you know has been arrested for obstructing justice, take a moment to contact a Florida criminal defense attorney at Musca Law.
Our firm’s attorneys are among The National Trial Lawyers – Top 100 Trial Lawyers, included in the 2012 Florida Super Lawyers® for criminal defense, and boast 10.0 Superb Avvo ratings. We know how to protect your future. We are skilled, experienced, tenacious, and relentless when it comes to defending our clients. Our seasoned Florida criminal defense attorneys work zealously to exploit the weaknesses in the prosecution’s case and develop a strategic defense for our clients. Our record of success in and out of the courtroom speaks for itself.