One area of criminal law that defendants often consider as a trap is process crime. This class of crimes includes what are considered offenses against the legal process, and they can be some of the trickiest problems to address. Take a look at what process crimes are and why they worry defendants and criminal lawyers alike.

What Is the Process?

The American criminal law system uses a set of processes to handle all cases. People are supposed to appear for court, not hinder the work of the prosecutor or judge, not commit perjury or make false statements, and not interfere with witnesses and evidence. The list of process crimes includes things like resisting arrests, obstruction of justice, contempt of court, and failure to appear. In other words, these are actions that prevent a trial from moving smoothly.

What About the 5th Amendment?

You do have a Constitutionally-guaranteed right against incriminating yourself. However, that only means you have the right to not say anything. If you do say something and it turns out to be false, then you can be charged with making false statements. Criminal lawyers always encourage their clients to not do the cops' jobs for them. You'll note, though, there's a difference between not helping the police—a completely legal choice—and actively stopping them.

How Do You Deal with Process Crime Allegations?

Attorneys find these cases to be tough. It's not easy to go into court and succeed by questioning the process. That's especially the case if you're dealing with a charge like contempt of court where the judge overseeing the trial is probably also the person who filed the charge against you. Most arguments against process crimes are fundamentally about your good-faith belief that you weren't harming the process. In some cases, such as resisting arrest charges, you might also argue that you feared for your life because the police were acting unlawfully.

Another argument against a process crime charge is that the prosecution is out of order. For example, you might assert they couldn't nail you for a real crime and are now pursuing an obstruction charge just to score a win. This argument rarely flies with judges, but it might work with a jury.

Some process charges are dropped once compliance is achieved. For example, a prosecutor might hold obstruction of justice charges over your head because they want you to testify against someone else. Depending on the circumstances, you may want to make a deal. Learn about how to handle this situation by contacting a criminal lawyer.