Obstruction of Justice in the MilitaryJuly 7, 2020
Obstruction of Justice in the Military is broader than in the Civilian legal system. This should concern any Servicemember under investigation or accused of misconduct.
The elements of Obstruction of Justice in the Military are as follows:
- That the accused wrongfully did a certain act
- That the accused did so in the case of a certain person against whom the accused had reason to believe there were or would be criminal or disciplinary proceedings pending (including themselves); and
- That the act was done with the intent to influence, impede, or otherwise obstruct the due administration of justice
Once a Servicemember commits misconduct or is informed of an investigation into their conduct, they should be very careful that their actions cannot possibly be conceived as obstruction of justice. Some common examples are as follows: calling individuals who may be witnesses and telling them not to talk to the cops/command; calling individuals and saying that if they talk to the cops/the command then their own misconduct might get reported; calling individuals during an investigation and discussing the underlying event; destruction of evidence; telling others to delete certain text messages or other evidence; lying to the cops/command; violating no-contact orders or protection orders; etc. This is not an exhaustive list.
In most cases, Servicemembers do not intentionally commit obstruction of justice. Regardless, even when this is the case, the Command doesn't always believe them. Obstruction of Justice charges are challenging to defend against, because the allegation alone can make a Servicemember seem guilty of the underlying offense.
The best thing a Servicemember can do to avoid Obstruction of Justice in the Military is to hire a lawyer. A lawyer, on behalf of a Servicemember, can talk to witnesses, review evidence, and do other acts that if done by the Servicemember in question, would be considered Obstruction.
This Article was written by Attorney Matthew Barry