2008 FEDERAL SENTENCING GUIDELINES MANUAL


CHAPTER THREE - PART C - OBSTRUCTION AND RELATED ADJUSTMENTS

Historical Note: Effective November 1, 1987. Amended effective November 1, 2006 (see Appendix C, amendment 684).

§3C1.1. Obstructing or Impeding the Administration of Justice

If (A) the defendant willfully obstructed or impeded, or attempted to obstruct or impede, the administration of justice with respect to the investigation, prosecution, or sentencing of the instant offense of conviction, and (B) the obstructive conduct related to (i) the defendant’s offense of conviction and any relevant conduct; or (ii) a closely related offense, increase the offense level by 2 levels.

Commentary

Application Notes:

1. In General.–This adjustment applies if the defendant’s obstructive conduct (A) occurred with respect to the investigation, prosecution, or sentencing of the defendant’s instant offense of conviction, and (B) related to (i) the defendant’s offense of conviction and any relevant conduct; or (ii) an otherwise closely related case, such as that of a co-defendant. Obstructive conduct that occurred prior to the start of the investigation of the instant offense of conviction may be covered by this guideline if the conduct was purposefully calculated, and likely, to thwart the investigation or prosecution of the offense of conviction.

2. Limitations on Applicability of Adjustment.–This provision is not intended to punish a defendant for the exercise of a constitutional right. A defendant’s denial of guilt (other than a denial of guilt under oath that constitutes perjury), refusal to admit guilt or provide information to a probation officer, or refusal to enter a plea of guilty is not a basis for application of this provision. In applying this provision in respect to alleged false testimony or statements by the defendant, the court should be cognizant that inaccurate testimony or statements sometimes may result from confusion, mistake, or faulty memory and, thus, not all inaccurate testimony or statements necessarily reflect a willful attempt to obstruct justice.

3. Covered Conduct Generally.–Obstructive conduct can vary widely in nature, degree of planning, and seriousness. Application Note 4 sets forth examples of the types of conduct to which this adjustment is intended to apply. Application Note 5 sets forth examples of less serious forms of conduct to which this enhancement is not intended to apply, but that ordinarily can appropriately be sanctioned by the determination of the particular sentence within the otherwise applicable guideline range. Although the conduct to which this adjustment applies is not subject to precise definition, comparison of the examples set forth in Application Notes 4 and 5 should assist the court in determining whether application of this adjustment is warranted in a particular case.

4. Examples of Covered Conduct.–The following is a non-exhaustive list of examples of the types of conduct to which this adjustment applies:

(a) threatening, intimidating, or otherwise unlawfully influencing a co-defendant, witness, or juror, directly or indirectly, or attempting to do so;

(b) committing, suborning, or attempting to suborn perjury, including during the course of a civil proceeding if such perjury pertains to conduct that forms the basis of the offense of conviction;

(c) producing or attempting to produce a false, altered, or counterfeit document or record during an official investigation or judicial proceeding;

(d) destroying or concealing or directing or procuring another person to destroy or conceal evidence that is material to an official investigation or judicial proceeding (e.g., shredding a document or destroying ledgers upon learning that an official investigation has commenced or is about to commence), or attempting to do so; however, if such conduct occurred contemporaneously with arrest (e.g., attempting to swallow or throw away a controlled substance), it shall not, standing alone, be sufficient to warrant an adjustment for obstruction unless it resulted in a material hindrance to the official investigation or prosecution of the instant offense or the sentencing of the offender;

(e) escaping or attempting to escape from custody before trial or sentencing; or willfully failing to appear, as ordered, for a judicial proceeding;

(f) providing materially false information to a judge or magistrate;

(g) providing a materially false statement to a law enforcement officer that significantly obstructed or impeded the official investigation or prosecution of the instant offense;

(h) providing materially false information to a probation officer in respect to a presentence or other investigation for the court;

(i) other conduct prohibited by obstruction of justice provisions under Title 18, United States Code (e.g., 18 U.S.C. §§ 1510, 1511);

(j) failing to comply with a restraining order or injunction issued pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 853(e) or with an order to repatriate property issued pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 853(p);

(k) threatening the victim of the offense in an attempt to prevent the victim from reporting the conduct constituting the offense of conviction.

    This adjustment also applies to any other obstructive conduct in respect to the official investigation, prosecution, or sentencing of the instant offense where there is a separate count of conviction for such conduct.

5. Examples of Conduct Ordinarily Not Covered.–Some types of conduct ordinarily do not warrant application of this adjustment but may warrant a greater sentence within the otherwise applicable guideline range or affect the determination of whether other guideline adjustments apply (e.g., §3E1.1 (Acceptance of Responsibility)). However, if the defendant is convicted of a separate count for such conduct, this adjustment will apply and increase the offense level for the underlying offense (i.e., the offense with respect to which the obstructive conduct occurred). See Application Note 8, below.

    The following is a non-exhaustive list of examples of the types of conduct to which this application note applies:

(a) providing a false name or identification document at arrest, except where such conduct actually resulted in a significant hindrance to the investigation or prosecution of the instant offense;

(b) making false statements, not under oath, to law enforcement officers, unless Application Note 4(g) above applies;

(c) providing incomplete or misleading information, not amounting to a material falsehood, in respect to a presentence investigation;

(d) avoiding or fleeing from arrest (see, however, §3C1.2 (Reckless Endangerment During Flight));

(e) lying to a probation or pretrial services officer about defendant’s drug use while on pretrial release, although such conduct may be a factor in determining whether to reduce the defendant’s sentence under §3E1.1 (Acceptance of Responsibility).

6. “Material” Evidence Defined.–“Material” evidence, fact, statement, or information, as used in this section, means evidence, fact, statement, or information that, if believed, would tend to influence or affect the issue under determination.

7. Inapplicability of Adjustment in Certain Circumstances.–If the defendant is convicted of an offense covered by §2J1.1 (Contempt), §2J1.2 (Obstruction of Justice), §2J1.3 (Perjury or Subornation of Perjury; Bribery of Witness), §2J1.5 (Failure to Appear by Material Witness), §2J1.6 (Failure to Appear by Defendant), §2J1.9 (Payment to Witness), §2X3.1 (Accessory After the Fact), or §2X4.1 (Misprision of Felony), this adjustment is not to be applied to the offense level for that offense except if a significant further obstruction occurred during the investigation, prosecution, or sentencing of the obstruction offense itself (e.g., if the defendant threatened a witness during the course of the prosecution for the obstruction offense).

8. Grouping Under §3D1.2(c).–If the defendant is convicted both of an obstruction offense (e.g., 18 U.S.C. § 3146 (Penalty for failure to appear); 18 U.S.C. § 1621 (Perjury generally)) and an underlying offense (the offense with respect to which the obstructive conduct occurred), the count for the obstruction offense will be grouped with the count for the underlying offense under subsection (c) of §3D1.2 (Groups of Closely Related Counts). The offense level for that group of closely related counts will be the offense level for the underlying offense increased by the 2-level adjustment specified by this section, or the offense level for the obstruction offense, whichever is greater.

9. Accountability for §1B1.3(a)(1)(A) Conduct.–Under this section, the defendant is accountable for his own conduct and for conduct that he aided or abetted, counseled, commanded, induced, procured, or willfully caused.

Historical Note: Effective November 1, 1987. Amended effective November 1, 1989 (see Appendix C, amendments 251 and 252); November 1, 1990 (see Appendix C, amendment 347); November 1, 1991 (see Appendix C, amendment 415); November 1, 1992 (see Appendix C, amendment 457); November 1, 1993 (see Appendix C, amendment 496); November 1, 1997 (see Appendix C, amendment 566); November 1, 1998 (see Appendix C, amendments 579, 581, and 582); November 1, 2002 (see Appendix C, amendment 637); November 1, 2004 (see Appendix C, amendment 674); November 1, 2006 (see Appendix C, amendment 693).