02 March 2004

The Federal Sentencing Guidelines
Section 3C1.1 Obstructing or Impeding the Administration of Justice

I ran across this a while back (the first time I looked at the guidelines) and just spotted it again. Under this section if you "obstruct" your offense level increases by 2 (perhaps adding a couple of years or more to a sentence). Under the commentary it states:
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.
In other words, even if I believe my client is as pure as the driven snow and more honest than George Washington, after the 5 federal agents and 6 snitches have testified I had better make sure he sits there and quietly accepts his fate or else they'll put him in prison even longer for exercising his right to testify on his own behalf. Naw, that doesn't violate everything which the constitution stands for. Not at all . . . No. Nope. Not in the least.

The sad thing here is that the federal sentences are already so far over the top that this blatant unconstitutionality is not required. Yes, to those out there who will write me, I realize that courts out there have certainly engaged in some sort of sophistry to excuse this (much as they certainly have for the plead guilty or we punish you provision). What is the great evil addressed here? The possibility of going to trial and testifying contrary to what the government wishes to hear. It is disturbing that the government is allowed to suppress rights in this manner.

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