CHAPTER TWO - OFFENSE CONDUCT


PART J - OFFENSES INVOLVING THE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE

§2J1.2. Obstruction of Justice

(a)Base Offense Level: 14

(b)Specific Offense Characteristics

(1)(Apply the greatest):

(A)If the (i) defendant was convicted under 18 U.S.C. § 1001; and (ii) statutory maximum term of eight years' imprisonment applies because the matter relates to sex offenses under 18 U.S.C. § 1591 or chapters 109A, 109B, 110, or 117 of title 18, United States Code, increase by 4 levels.

(B)If the offense involved causing or threatening to cause physical injury to a person, or property damage, in order to obstruct the administration of justice, increase by 8 levels.

(C)If the (i) defendant was convicted under 18 U.S.C. § 1001 or § 1505; and (ii) statutory maximum term of eight years' imprisonment applies because the matter relates to international terrorism or domestic terrorism, increase by 12 levels.

(2)If the offense resulted in substantial interference with the administration of justice, increase by 3 levels.

(3)If the offense (A) involved the destruction, alteration, or fabrication of a substantial number of records, documents, or tangible objects; (B) involved the selection of any essential or especially probative record, document, or tangible object, to destroy or alter; or (C) was otherwise extensive in scope, planning, or preparation, increase by 2 levels.

(c)Cross Reference

(1)If the offense involved obstructing the investigation or prosecution of a criminal offense, apply §2X3.1 (Accessory After the Fact) in respect to that criminal offense, if the resulting offense level is greater than that determined above.

Commentary

Statutory Provisions: 18 U.S.C. §§ 1001 (when the statutory maximum term of eight years' imprisonment applies because the matter relates to international terrorism or domestic terrorism, or to sex offenses under 18 U.S.C. § 1591 or chapters 109A, 109B, 110, or 117 of title 18, United States Code), 1503, 1505-1513, 1516, 1519. For additional statutory provision(s), see Appendix A (Statutory Index).

Application Notes:

1.Definitions.—For purposes of this guideline:

"Domestic terrorism" has the meaning given that term in 18 U.S.C. § 2331(5).

"International terrorism" has the meaning given that term in 18 U.S.C. § 2331(1).

"Records, documents, or tangible objects" includes (A) records, documents, or tangible objects that are stored on, or that are, magnetic, optical, digital, other electronic, or other storage mediums or devices; and (B) wire or electronic communications.

"Substantial interference with the administration of justice" includes a premature or improper termination of a felony investigation; an indictment, verdict, or any judicial determination based upon perjury, false testimony, or other false evidence; or the unnecessary expenditure of substantial governmental or court resources.

2.Chapter Three Adjustments.—

(A)Inapplicability of Chapter Three, Part C.—For offenses covered under this section, Chapter Three, Part C (Obstruction) does not apply, unless the defendant obstructed the investigation, prosecution, or sentencing of the obstruction of justice count.

(B)Interaction with Terrorism Adjustment.—If §3A1.4 (Terrorism) applies, do not apply subsection (b)(1)(C).

3.Convictions for the Underlying Offense.—In the event that the defendant is convicted of an offense sentenced under this section as well as for the underlying offense (i.e., the offense that is the object of the obstruction), see the Commentary to Chapter Three, Part C (Obstruction), and to §3D1.2(c) (Groups of Closely Related Counts).

4.Upward Departure Considerations.—If a weapon was used, or bodily injury or significant property damage resulted, an upward departure may be warranted. See Chapter Five, Part K (Departures). In a case involving an act of extreme violence (for example, retaliating against a government witness by throwing acid in the witness's face) or a particularly serious sex offense, an upward departure would be warranted.

5.Subsection (b)(1)(B).—The inclusion of "property damage" under subsection (b)(1)(B) is designed to address cases in which property damage is caused or threatened as a means of intimidation or retaliation (e.g., to intimidate a witness from, or retaliate against a witness for, testifying). Subsection (b)(1)(B) is not intended to apply, for example, where the offense consisted of destroying a ledger containing an incriminating entry.

Background. This section addresses offenses involving the obstruction of justice generally prosecuted under the above-referenced statutory provisions. Numerous offenses of varying seriousness may constitute obstruction of justice: using threats or force to intimidate or influence a juror or federal officer; obstructing a civil or administrative proceeding; stealing or altering court records; unlawfully intercepting grand jury deliberations; obstructing a criminal investigation; obstructing a state or local investigation of illegal gambling; using intimidation or force to influence testimony, alter evidence, evade legal process, or obstruct the communication of a judge or law enforcement officer; or causing a witness bodily injury or property damage in retaliation for providing testimony, information or evidence in a federal proceeding. The conduct that gives rise to the violation may, therefore, range from a mere threat to an act of extreme violence.

The specific offense characteristics reflect the more serious forms of obstruction. Because the conduct covered by this guideline is frequently part of an effort to avoid punishment for an offense that the defendant has committed or to assist another person to escape punishment for an offense, a cross reference to §2X3.1 (Accessory After the Fact) is provided. Use of this cross reference will provide an enhanced offense level when the obstruction is in respect to a particularly serious offense, whether such offense was committed by the defendant or another person.

Historical Note: Effective November 1, 1987. Amended effective November 1, 1989 (see Appendix C, amendments 172-174); November 1, 1991 (see Appendix C, amendment 401); January 25, 2003 (see Appendix C, amendment 647); November 1, 2003 (see Appendix C, amendment 653); October 24, 2005 (see Appendix C, amendment 676); November 1, 2006 (see Appendix C, amendment 690); November 1, 2007 (see Appendix C, amendment 701).