California Criminal Defense Blog

Former Utah Attorney General John Swallow faces 11 felony charges and two misdemeanors for soliciting bribes, accepting gifts, and tampering with evidence.1 But Swallow also could be charged with obstruction of justice.

obstruction of justice

John Swallow faces obstruction of justice charges.

The Special Investigation Committee assigned to the Swallow case alleges that he purposely deleted electronic documents and falsified documents in an attempt to hide evidence.2

If you are under investigation for a crime, prosecutors could search your cellphone for evidence. Smartphones are essentially small handheld computers that fit in the palm of your hand. In fact, in the case of United States v. Neil Scott Kramer, the U.S. Court of Appeals determined that a smartphone is a computer.3

Law enforcement and prosecutors understand that in this day and age, cellphones are filled with personal information. In fact, a smartphone may even have more personal data than a computer. Therefore, the information on your cellphone will play a crucial role in your case.

That is why deleting your cellphone memory during an investigation could be considered obstruction of justice. Let’s take a look at California obstruction of justice laws.

Obstruction of Justice (California Penal Code Section 132 & 18 U.S. Code Section 1505)

Under California Penal Code Section 132, you can be charged with obstruction of justice if you intentionally:

  • Avoid or prevent compliance with any civil or criminal investigation;
  • Misrepresent any documents or material;
  • Give false answers on written interrogations or oral testimonies; or
  • Remove, conceal or destroy any documents or other material.4

“Documentary material” could include any handwritten material or electronic communication such as text messages and emails. Attempting to destroy this information or conceal it by deleting it from your phone’s memory could be considered obstruction of justice.

If you are accused of obstructing justice in relation to a federal criminal case, you may be punished under 18 U.S. Code Section 1505. The elements of this crime under federal law are very similar to those under California law.

Penalties for Obstructing Justice by Deleting Your Phone’s Memory

obstruction of justice to delete your cellphone memory

It could be considered obstruction of justice to delete your cellphone memory.

Under California law, obstruction of justice is a misdemeanor.

The penalties for a misdemeanor conviction of obstruction of justice include up to six months in county jail and up to $1,000 in fines.5

You face more serious consequences if you are convicted of obstructing justice while under investigation for a federal crime. Under 18 U.S. Code Section 1505, you could be sentenced to up to five years in prison if you are charged with obstructing justice during a federal investigation.

If it occurs during a federal drug trafficking case, you face up to 20 years in prison.6

Call the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today

If you are accused of obstructing justice, a conviction is far from guaranteed. The law is still not entirely clear on issues of technology and cellphones. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that you have a skilled attorney bring these to the attention of the criminal justice system. Our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have been successfully defending our clients accused of this crime for over 30 years.

With offices located in Orange County, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Torrance, Riverside, West Covina, Victorville, Ventura, San Diego and Sherman Oaks, Wallin & Klarich is available to provide round-the-clock support no matter where you work or live.

Call us at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 to discuss your case. We will be there when you call.


1. [http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/58185969-78/swallow-shurtleff-utah-general.html.csp]
2. [http://utahpoliticalcapitol.com/2013/12/20/investigation-reports-swallow-deliberately-deleted-evidence-obstructed-justice/#]
3. [http://nydailyrecord.com/blog/2012/05/30/ediscovery-update-deleted-text-messages-and-ediscovery/]
4. [http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=pen&group=00001-01000&file=132-141]
5. [Id.]
6. [https://www.ohiobar.org/forpublic/resources/lawyoucanuse/pages/lawyoucanuse-132.aspx]

Punishment for Stealing Personal Information through Public WiFi

One way that hackers can steal personal data is through public WiFi networks. These networks—often found at cafes, fast food restaurants and hotels—are used by a wide range of people. When you use a public network, all of your data is essentially sent through radio waves that can be intercepted.1

There are various ways to intercept data from public WiFi …

Continue Reading.......

Can Law Enforcement Seize Your Cash as Evidence?

If police feel that your money is involved with a criminal case, they can seize it. For example, police officers will withhold your cash if they feel that it is connected with a drug offense. Let’s say you are pulled over and police officers smell marijuana in your car or find other drug paraphernalia. They may seize any money that you have if they feel that it m…

Continue Reading.......

How a Domestic Violence Charge Impacts Immigration Status

In the U.S., any immigrant who violates the law could face deportation as part of the punishment. This includes immigrants who are in the country legally.1 If you are an immigrant facing domestic violence charges, you could be deported. However, that is not always the case. Whether you are deported will depend on the circumstances surrounding your case.

Le…

Continue Reading.......

How Does a Witness’ Criminal History Affect a Trial?

One of the most important aspects of a criminal trial is the testimony from witnesses. Witnesses can either shed light on the crime itself or on the character of either party. They are carefully selected by prosecutors and defense attorneys and are often heavily prepared to contribute to the proceedings. This is why they are an invaluable part of the crimina…

Continue Reading.......

You May Not Have to Pay Restitution if You are Convicted of a Crime

In many cases, you will be ordered to pay restitution if you plead guilty or are convicted of a crime. However, you are entitled to a hearing before a restitution amount can be set. More importantly, the court sometimes makes a mistake and orders someone to pay restitution when they should not be ordered to do so.

The case of People vs. Martinez, Superior Court N…

Continue Reading.......

Animal Hoarding Crimes and Penalties (California Penal Code Section 597-599)

According to California Penal Code Section 597t hoarding animals is a violation of California’s animal cruelty laws. This is a serious crime in California, a state that has adopted some of the most severe punishments for convicted animal abusers.

The Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium (HARC) defines animal hoarding as:

  • Accumulating a large numb
Continue Reading.......

Pros and Cons of Police Needing a Warrant to Search Your Cellphone

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects a person’s right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement. Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that Fourth Amendment protection includes a person’s cellphone.

In a unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court decided on June 28 that law enforcement must first obtain a warrant …

Continue Reading.......