You do not have to be a direct participant in a crime to be arrested on charges that relate to the commission of a crime. By simply trying to impede the authorities in their attempt to investigate a crime you could be charged with what is known as obstruction of justice. By the same token, if you yourself are being investigated for a crime and you deliberately do or say something designed to keep the officers from the truth, you could also be charged with obstructing justice.
There are several ways in which a person can obstruct justice, the simplest of which is to lie to the police in an attempt to throw their investigation off track. For instance, let's say the police ask you questions about a friend of yours who they believe committed a robbery. If you tell the police that your friend is out of town when he is actually staying at your house, then you have committed obstruction of justice.
However, it is also possible to be charged with obstruction of justice if you purposely destroy, attempt to destroy, or hide evidence in order to interfere with an investigation. Evidence can take on all forms, including documents and even digital information contained in computer files.
A conviction for obstruction of justice can result in very severe punishment. In fact, an individual convicted of obstructing a federal investigation can receive a prison sentence of as much as 20 years.
One of the most important things to remember if you are ever interrogated by the police is that you have the right to remain silent. By taking advantage of this right and not saying anything to the police, you lessen the likelihood of being accused of impeding an investigation. And this is just one of many reasons that if you are arrested, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney before answering any questions being asked by law enforcement officials.