You might even commit a felony or two today, who knows? The fact is that we live in an overcriminalized society where vague federal laws are dangerous for everyone, lawyers, judges and police officers included. This ambiguity invites varying interpretations and could stamp a permanent criminal record on the otherwise squeaky clean slate of an unknowing, harmless individual.
It seems implausible. But here are eight hypothetical situations — of many possible ones — with real instances pertaining to each courtesy of Policy Mic’s Laura Dimon.
You share a bathroom with your sister and you find her stash of illegal weed. You don’t want her to get in trouble, so you flush it down the toilet. Little did you know, she was under a police investigation for possession of marijuana that began days earlier. Thus, you have just committed obstruction of justice: “A criminal offense that involves interference, through words or actions, with the proper operations of a court or officers of the court.”
Real example: In 2007, a church in Greenwich, Conn. called and retained lawyer Philip Russell after they discovered child pornography on their musical director’s computer. According to the Wall Street Journal report, “Russell told the musical director to retain counsel because possession of child pornography was a federal crime. The employee resigned. The church turned the laptop over to Russell, who destroyed it. No one told the feds.” Russell was charged with obstruction of justice, a charge that can carry up to 20 years of prison time. However, the judge cited Russell’s years of good service as reason to only give him six months of home confinement, a fine of $25,000 and community service.
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