BUSINESS LAW 101 / Obstructing Justice-Part 2

By Albert L. Kelley, Esq.

In the last column I wrote about obstruction of justice as it involves law enforcement.  But there are other methods of obstructing justice.  

When I was young, I remember watching television shows where someone would bring a jail inmate a cake and hidden in the cake would be a file so the inmate could saw his way out of the cell.  While this has actually happened, Florida law forbids it.  Smuggling something into the jail, whether a costume, tool or weapon, with the intent that the inmate will use it to escape, is illegal and a second-degree felony – unless the prisoner has only been charged with a misdemeanor, in which case the crime is a first-degree misdemeanor.  Any other action to aid an escape is a third-degree felony. 

There is a mistaken belief that we have no obligation to get involved if we learn about a crime. I discussed in the last article how the police can require assistance, but you also have an obligation to advise if you know a crime has been committed.  The law states that anyone who takes money or anything of value to keep quiet about a crime, or not provide evidence can be charged with a third-degree felony.  If the crime was a misdemeanor, concealing it would be a first-degree misdemeanor.

Once a person has been charged with a crime, they have an obligation to attend the hearings related to their case, both before trial and before sentencing. If they have been charged with a felony, the failure to attend a hearing is by itself a third-degree felony.  If they were charged with a misdemeanor, it is a first-degree misdemeanor. It is also a third-degree felony if they tamper with any electronic monitoring device.

While many people listen to police scanners, it is illegal to install one in a vehicle, unless the vehicle is used by a news organization, an alarm system contractor, the holder of a valid amateur radio license or law enforcement officer.  For the others, it is a first-degree misdemeanor.

If a person committing a crime uses a police scanner to aid their escape afterwards, they will compound the crime, based on the type of crime they were committing.  A crime that will be a misdemeanor of the second degree shall be punished as if it were a misdemeanor of the first degree; a misdemeanor of the first degree shall be punished as if it were a felony of the third degree; a felony of the third degree shall be punished as if it were a felony of the second degree; a felony of the second degree shall be punished as if it were a felony of the first degree; and a felony of the first degree shall be punished as if it were a life felony.

While you may be upset at the officer who wrote you a speeding ticket, it is not advisable to try and expose them.  Publishing a police officer’s address or phone number without permission is a first-degree misdemeanor.

And while we know it is illegal to flee an officer trying to pull you over, that is also true if you are in a boat.  Fleeing from an officer in a boat is not only a third-degree felony, but it also subjects the boat to seizure by the police department as contraband.

Harassing a member of a crime watch program, while they are actively involved working for that program is a first-degree misdemeanor. 

Finally, we must respect the animals who assist our police officers.  Any person who harasses or teases a police dog, fire dog, search and rescue dog or police horse while the animal is on duty is guilty of a second-degree misdemeanor.  If the person maliciously touches, strikes or causes bodily harm to the animal, the charge ties to a first-degree misdemeanor.  If they cause bodily harm, disability or death to the animal, the charge rises to a second-degree felony.

Al Kelley has worked as an attorney in Key West for the last 31 years. He is the author of five law books available through Absolutely Amazing E-Books and the host of “Basics Of The Law”, a weekly YouTube channel. He also previously taught business law, personnel law, and labor law at St. Leo University. This article is being offered as a public service and is not intended to provide specific legal advice. If you have any questions about legal issues, you should confer with a licensed Florida attorney. 

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