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Understanding Obstruction and Retaliation

Texas, like every other state, takes its legal system and law enforcement seriously. The judicial system is set up to provide victims of crimes with justice as quickly as possible, and this is a lofty goal even when there is no one out there throwing up roadblocks. The State of Texas does not take kindly to people who take it upon themselves to interrupt the legal system's smooth flow, and this is why there are charges related to retaliation and obstruction on the books.

If you are facing a charge of obstruction or retaliation in the State of Texas, the consequences of a conviction are too great not to bring your strongest defense, and an experienced Temple criminal defense attorney can help you with that. Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard is just such an attorney, so please do not hesitate to contact or call us at 254-501-4040 to learn more about how we can help you today.

Comparing the Charges

Before tackling how obstruction and retaliation differ from one another, it is important to consider how they are similar. There are three qualifiers that must be present in order for either the charge of retaliation or obstruction to stick, including:

  • The accused intentionally or knowingly harmed or threatened to harm someone else unlawfully.

  • The harm was intended to prevent an action or to retaliate after a specific action.

  • The action in question is either the reporting of a crime, the work of a public servant, or the testimony of a potential witness.

In essence, a charge of retaliation or obstruction is intended to penalize an individual for interrupting the legal system or for interrupting a public servants’ efforts. When you delve into each of these charges, however, there is more to it than this.

Obstruction

The charge of obstruction relates specifically to the act of delaying or preventing the actions of any of the following:

  • A witness

  • A public servant

  • An informant

  • The reporter of a crime

The manner in which the accused obstructs the action in question can vary widely, but it must incorporate harm or the threat of harm to the person whose action is obstructed. While the harm need not be physical harm, it must be harm that is unlawful. As such, it can include any of the following:

  • Financial damage

  • Property damage

  • Unlawful firing

  • Slander

If any such action is employed in an attempt to keep a public servant from doing his or her job, a witness from testifying, an informant from providing information, or a reporter of a crime from reporting the crime, it can rise to the level of an obstruction charge.

The Motivation

Every obstruction charge is unique to the circumstances involved, but people are typically motivated to engage in the crime of obstruction as a means of protecting themselves or a loved one from being convicted of a crime. For example, threatening a witness in an attempt to prevent him or her from testifying at your own or someone else’s trial is a form of obstruction.

Retaliation

While the charge of obstruction relates to causing or threatening harm before the person, such as the public servant or witness, does something, retaliation is the crime of causing or threatening harm after the fact. In other words, a retaliation charge applies if the accused is alleged to have harmed or to have threatened harm to someone after he or she provided testimony, reported a crime, performed his or her job as a public servant, or provided information. To recap, threatening someone with harm if they carry through with their action (bearing witness, reporting a crime, etc.) is the crime of obstruction, and threatening someone with harm because they carried through with their action (bearing witness, reporting a crime, etc.) is the crime of retaliation.

The Latest Legal Tweak

Obstruction and retaliation do not have to be personal acts. In fact, the State of Texas recently tweaked its laws to include the act of doxxing, which refers to publicly posting someone’s (the victim’s) home address or phone number. If the incident is intended to harm the victim involved for being a public servant, it amounts to a crime that is related to obstruction and retaliation.

Obstruction and Retaliation: The Penalties

Because the crimes of obstruction and retaliation can seriously disrupt the course of justice – and can seriously impede a criminal investigation and/or trial – they are associated with harsh penalties. At the very least, the charges of obstruction and retaliation are third-degree felonies. A conviction on a third-degree felony can lead to fines of up to $10,000 and from 2 to 10 years in prison.

Aggravating Factors

If the obstruction or retaliation charge is considered aggravated, the charge can be elevated to a second-degree felony, and the penalties for conviction are more serious still (the maximum prison sentence doubles from 10 to 20 years). Those factors that are classified as aggravating include:

  • Causing a public servant – or any member of his or her family – to suffer bodily harm

  • Threatening or harming a juror

Whether for a second- or third-degree felony, a conviction means bearing the status of a convicted felon for a lifetime.

The State’s Motivation

The justice system depends upon public servants, witnesses to crimes, and people who report crimes to help effect justice, and this is why they take the crimes of obstruction and retaliation very seriously. The idea is to protect these individuals from harm and from the threat of harm to help ensure that justice continues to prevail. A momentary lapse in judgment, however, that amounts to a threat made in haste and/or anger can lead to a life-altering criminal charge.

Consult with an Experienced Temple Criminal Defense Attorney Today

If you are facing a charge of obstruction or retaliation, Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Round Rock, Texas, is an accomplished criminal defense attorney who takes considerable pride in helping clients like you obtain beneficial case resolutions. For more information, please do not hesitate to contact or call us at 254-501-4040 today.

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