ARS § 13-2810 is the Arizona statute that defines the crime of interfering with a judicial proceeding. You commit this offense if you engage in some disorderly act or ommission in relation to a court proceeding (for example, refuse to be sworn in as a witness). A violation of the law is a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail.
The language of ARS 13-2810 lists several ways in which a person may interfere with the judicial process. Some include when a person knowingly:
- engages in disorderly conduct during a court proceeding,
- disobeys a lawful court order, and/or
- refuses to serve as a juror.
- yelling at a judge during a court hearing.
- disobeying an order of protection after committing domestic violence.
- after being chosen as a juror in a murder trial, refusing to attend the trial and serve as a juror.
People accused of a crime under this statute can challenge the accusation with a legal defense. A few common defenses include defendants showing that:
- they did not knowingly interfere with the judicial process,
- there was an emergency, and/or
- a court order was not lawful.
- custody in jail for up to six months, and/or
- a maximum fine of $2,500.
In this article, our criminal defense attorneys will discuss what the law is under this statute, defenses available if charged, the penalties for a conviction, and related crimes.
1. How does Arizona law define “interfering with judicial proceedings”?
Under Arizona law, people are guilty of interfering with a judicial proceeding if they knowingly:
- engage in disorderly, disrespectful, or insolent behavior during a court session, and such persons interrupt the session or disrespect the authority of the court,
- disobey or resist a lawful order/judicial order of a court, or a mandate of a court (for example, a restraining order following domestic violence charges),
- refuse to be sworn in as a witness in a court proceeding,
- publish a false or grossly inaccurate report of a court proceeding,
- refuse to serve as a juror unless exempted by law, or
- fail to attend a trial at which they were chosen to serve as a juror.i
Note that sometimes people believe that the act of tampering with evidence is a crime under this statute. However, tampering evidence is a separate offense charged under ARS 13-2809. People commit the crime when they alter, conceal, destroy, or remove physical evidence with the intent to impair its availability.
2. Are there defenses to ARS 13-2810 charges?
Criminal defense lawyers use several legal strategies to help clients contest charges under this statute. Three common ones include showing that:
- the accused did not act knowingly.
- there was an emergency that caused a violation of the law.
- there was no lawful order in place.
2.1 No knowledge
Recall that people are only guilty under this statute if they commit an act knowingly. “Knowingly” means that a person must be aware of his/her actions or circumstances.ii This means it is always a defense for accused people to show that they did not act knowingly.
For example, people are not guilty of interfering with a court proceeding if they were not aware that:
- they were a juror,
- the court was in session, or
- a reporting of a court proceeding was false.
Sometimes people have to interfere with a court proceeding because of an emergency. In these circumstances, a defendant should explain the emergency situation into the court records and indicate that interference was required under the circumstances. Perhaps, for example, a person could not serve as a juror because he/she had to rush to the hospital because of a medical condition.
2.3 No lawful order
Many people violate this law by disobeying a lawful superior court order. Defendants in these cases can try to avoid guilt by showing that the order in place was not, in fact, lawful. This can sometimes be done by defendants showing that an order was not properly given to or “served” on them.
3. What are the penalties?
An ARS 13-2810 violation is a Class 1 misdemeanor under Arizona law.iii
The crime is punishable by:
- custody in jail (as opposed to state prison) for up to six months, and/or
- a maximum fine of $2,500.
Judges have the discretion to award a defendant with probation or community service instead of jail time.
4. Are there related offenses?
There are three crimes related to interfering with a court proceeding. These are:
- stalking – ARS 13-2923,
- threatening or intimidating – ARS 13-1202, and/or
- failure to appear – ARS 13-2507 and ARS 13-2506.
4.1 Stalking – ARS 13-2923
Per ARS 13-2923, stalking is the crime where:
- people intentionally or knowingly engage in a course of conduct that is directed towards a specific person, and
- the conduct causes that person to either suffer emotional distress or reasonably fear for their safety or the safety of an immediate family member.
Compared to interfering with a judicial proceeding, stalking is a much more severe crime in Arizona. The offense is a Class 3 felony that is punishable by up to eight years and nine months in prison.
4.2 Threatening or intimidating – ARS 13-1202
Under ARS 13-1202, threatening or intimidating is the crime where people either threaten to:
- physically injure someone,
- cause a serious public inconvenience (such as the evacuation of a building), or
- injure another person to promote a street gang, a criminal syndicate, or a racketeering enterprise.
Note that, depending on the facts of a case, if a person caused a public inconvenience inside a court, then a prosecutor could technically charge the person with both:
- threatening and intimidating, per ARS 13-1202, and
- interfering with a judicial proceeding, per ARS 13-2810.
4.3 Failure to appear – ARS 13-2507 and ARS 13-2506
Under ARS 13-2507 and ARS 13-2506, failure to appear is the crime where people knowingly:
- fail to appear in court in connection with either a felony or a misdemeanor offense, or
- fail to appear in court after giving a written promise to do so.
As with a violation of ARS 13-2810, people can challenge a violation of this statute by showing that they could not appear in court because they had to tend to an emergency.
- Arizona Revised Statutes 13-2810A1-6.
- ARS 13-105(10)(b).
- ARS 13-2810B.