Record Theft

18 U.S.C. § 1506 - Theft or Alteration of Record or Process

The crime of obstruction of justice is unique at the federal level because it's a crime against the federal criminal justice system, such as Title 18 U.S. Code 1506 theft or alteration of record or process; false bail.

Obstruction of justice is a felony under federal law and can occur in many different forms. However, it involves an intentional effort to impede or obstruct the government's ability to administer justice. Often, they are difficult to prove because proving intent can be challenging.

18 U.S.C. § 1506 - Theft or Alteration of Record or Process
Title 18 U.S. Code 1506 theft or alteration of record is a type of federal obstruction crime.

There are numerous obstruction of justice statutes that exist in federal law. Each one requires different elements of the crime to prove.

Not all types of obstruction of justice involve threatening someone. For example, 18 U.S. Code 1506 targets efforts to tamper with official orders or records issued by a federal court.

This federal offense covers any attempt to steal, alter, falsify, or remove any judgment or writ issued by a federal court. It might involve fraudulently attempting to alter an order or judgment issued by the court before it's filed for the record. Perhaps it involves tampering with an issued writ or order to defraud someone.

18 U.S.C. § 1506 says, “Whoever feloniously steals, takes away, alters, falsifies, or avoids any record, writ, process, or other proceedings, in any United States court, whereby any judgment is reversed, made void or does not take effect; or whoever acknowledges, or procures, in any such court, any recognizance, bail, or judgment, in the name of someone, not privy or consenting to the same, shall be….”

As noted, there are many federal statutes related to the obstruction of justice, which means any interference with due process or the regular operation of the criminal justice system. Let's review this law further below.

Title 18 United States Code 1506 - Explained

Under federal obstruction of justice laws, a prosecutor must be able to prove all the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt to secure a guilty conviction.

These “elements” are typically particular factors, depending on the type of federal obstruction offense. The crime of theft or alteration of record or process, false bail, is one of the many forms of obstruction of justice.

Specifically, 18 U.S.C. 1506 deals with the crime of tampering with court documents in a way that the court's judgment is unfairly influenced. There are different ways you could violate this law, such as the following:

  • Theft of records refers to taking official documents away from the court without permission or stealing filed documents;  
  • Alteration of records refers to changing the content of court documents or forging signatures on official court documents;
  • Falsifying bail refers to false representation as surety, a person who guarantees a defendant will appear for trial. Bail is the posted money or collateral allowing a defendant's release awaiting trial.

What Are the Penalties?

Stealing, altering, or falsifying court records or processes is a federal felony. Suppose you are convicted of violating 18 U.S.C. 1506. In that case, the statute says you “Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.”

What Are the Related Federal Laws?

18 U.S. Code Chapter 73 Obstruction of Justice has numerous federal laws that are related to 18 U.S.C. 1506 theft or alteration of record or process, such as the following:

  • 18 U.S.C. 1501 - Assault on a process server means to resist or impede a process server who is attempting to serve papers related to a federal case;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1502 - Resistance to extradition agent;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1503 - Influencing or injuring a juror or court officer means to disrupt or interfere with the judicial process, such as attempting bribery;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1504 - Influencing jurors by writing;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1505 - Obstruction of proceedings before departments, agencies, and committees;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1507 - Picketing or parading;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1508 - Recording, listening to, or observing proceedings of grand or petit juries while deliberating or voting;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1509 - Obstruction of court orders;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1510 - Obstruction of criminal investigations;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1511 - Obstruction of state or local law enforcement;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1512 - Tampering with a witness, victim, or an informant refers to enticing or intimidating a witness to prevent them from testifying, stopping the report of a crime, or killing a potential witness;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1513 - Retaliating against a witness, victim, or an informant;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1514 - Civil action to restrain harassment of a victim or witness;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1514A - Civil action to protect against retaliation in fraud cases;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1515 - Definitions for certain provisions; general provision;
  • 18 S.C. 1516 - Obstruction of a federal audit;
  • 18 S.C. 1517 - Obstructing examination of financial institutions;
  • 18 S.C. 1518 - Obstruction of investigations of health care offenses;
  • 18 S.C. 1519 - Destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in federal investigations and bankruptcy refers to destroying or tampering with any court documents or other records related to proceedings;
  • 18 S.C. 1520 - Destruction of corporate audit records;
  • 18 S.C. 1521 - Retaliating against a federal judge or law enforcement officer by false claim or slander of title.

How Can a Defense Lawyer Help You?

Suppose you are under investigation or indicted for allegedly violating Title 18 U.S. Code 1506 by stealing, altering, or falsifying official records or processes. In that case, our federal defense attorneys could employ different strategies for the best possible outcome, as discussed below.

Defenses for Theft or Alteration of Record
Contact our federal defense lawyers for advice.

Maybe we can argue that it was not a willful act. Perhaps you didn't know they were official court records.  Maybe you had no intent to keep them.

Perhaps we can argue that there was an unlawful search and seizure at your home. Maybe we can prove federal law enforcement agents did not have a valid warrant.

Perhaps we can negotiate with the federal prosecutor for a favorable plea agreement in a case where guilt is not in doubt.

Federal obstruction of justice cases are often complex, and you will need legal counsel with experience in federal laws and procedures. We know the most effective defense strategies to give you the best chance of success.

The federal criminal justice system is designed to give all defendants a fair trial, and everyone is considered innocent until they have been proven guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. The laws ensure that the process is fair and equal. Contact us for a free case evaluation. The Hedding Law Firm has offices in Los Angeles, California.

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