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.

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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. 

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. 

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. We can help you get started on the right path to avoiding a conviction.

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