View Full Version : Is this obstruction of justice, tampering with evidence, or something else?

12-27-2014, 11:33 AM
So this is hard to explain without sounding ridiculous.

Would it be obstruction of justice if a coroner investigating a body at a crime scene intentionally records false information about the deceased? Namely, reporting a body as dead when it is actually in a coma.

Trust me, the dude doesn't maintain the ruse very long (not even for the entirety of the scene, and he actually isn't even a coroner, just a poser), but I'd like to know the name of the crime. Obstruction sounds like a good fit, but my google searches also point to the similar charge of evidence tampering.


and happy writing.

12-27-2014, 05:09 PM
I'm not a lawyer, but I do know for sure that coroners can be elected or appointed, and ofter that's how it's done in small towns and rural counties. The person serving as coroner does not necessarily have any medical training at all. (The coroner who testified at our daughter's trial was not a medical doctor. I just now checked and the current coroner is a doctor.)

While your character's defense could easily be an honest mistake borne of incompetence, if he's doing this on purpose, the proper charge probably depends on where this is happening. Add "fraud with intent to deceive" to your maybe list.

Maryn, who asked her lawyer husband but received only an I-dunno

12-27-2014, 06:21 PM
Obstruction of justice, tampering with evidence, fraud with intent to deceive, impersonating an official are all possibilities.

Really depends upon the jurisdiction and mood of the prosecutor.

Best of luck

Jim Clark-Dawe

12-27-2014, 07:30 PM
Obstruction of justice, tampering with evidence, fraud with intent to deceive, impersonating an official are all possibilities.

Really depends upon the jurisdiction and mood of the prosecutor.

Best of luck

Jim Clark-Dawe


Some states also make it a crime to fill out an official form improperly (intentionally).

T Robinson
12-27-2014, 08:19 PM
All of the above, but what stands out to me is

Criminal Attempt to Commit Murder

in that he has made a substantial step towards causing the death of a human, by intentionally depriving said person of needed medical care. (actual elements of the crime depends on the state)

If there were others involved, you can also hit him with a Conspiracy charge.

What do you need to happen? Give Jim or Mark more details and they can advise you on the proper charges.

12-27-2014, 09:06 PM
To elaborate a bit on Mark's post, it could be a felony under federal laws as well. For example see 18USC1001 - false statements, etc.



12-28-2014, 09:24 AM
First of all,
Maryn, I don't know your situation, but I'm truly sorry you were able to refer to anecdotal evidence in such a morbid topic like this. I'm wishing you all the best.

And thank you to all who offered their two cents and supplementary material; it truly helped.

To those who asked, these are the circumstances that led me to asking this question:

In the scene this pertains to, the protagonist, who works for Homeland Security, is investigating the assassination of the president. At the moment, the "coroner" is the only one to have deeply surveyed the scene, which consists of the president's corpse and one other person, both reported to be dead. When she looks at this "other person," he turns out to be someone she knew intimately. Further inspection shows that this person is not dead, but in a coma. She is furious and confronts the coroner about this rather serious lapse in judgement. When she goes to find her superior to handle the matter/get aid, the coroner goes missing, along with ComaGuy.

I was curious about the classification of this crime because a critique partner of mine pointed out that the "coroner" appeared more incompetent than conniving despite my attempts at foreshadowing this in the previous chapter. FYI, the coroner is not a coroner, but a "bad guy" with powers that will abduct ComaGuy because of plot reasons. The real coroner is actually dead.

I tweaked the scene to make the coroner look more enigmatic and untrustworthy, and I added some internalization of the POV mentally crucifying the coroner for making such an obvious mistake, then realizing that it may have been a criminal and deliberate act. She is going to be rather emotional on this matter due to her conflict of interest in the unfolding events, which will cause a whole new set of problems for her in the near future.

I hope this helped clarify things.

Happy writing!

12-28-2014, 05:51 PM
Let me warn you that you're going to have a lot of believability problems with this scene. It's up to you whether this matters or not.

The President (US President should be capitalized) always travels with medical personal. In addition, I believe that the Secret Service is taught basic emergency care. Very rarely do people die within seconds of their injury. Usually there are some indications of life for a few minutes. The chances of survival might be nil, but there are still signs of life.

Medical personal would be on scene within a minute. They'd transport the President, unless it was something like a decapitation. Ambulance people transport at any sign of life, even when they know it is hopeless. I can't imagine a situation where the President isn't transported to a hospital immediately.

Mistaking dead for alive is possible, but it is very, very rare. Especially in a Presidential crime scene, the other victim would be checked several times. This would include listening with a stethoscope, and checking with a defib/monitor. It could happen, just like it could happen that I'm going to win PowerBall.

The area around the President is relatively tightly controlled. A crime scene involving the President is going to be tightly controlled. I don't see how your fake is going to get in, even with faked credentials. Further, I doubt the Feds would permit a coroner into the scene. They'd want a medical examiner, who is a medical doctor with forensic abilities.

As far as your original question is concerned, the US Attorney who is responsible for this case would charge everything they could think of in the law books. Terrorism, Patriot Act, littering if they drop a piece of paper, you name it and they'd charge it. The US Attorney can always drop charges later on.

It's up to you how believable you make this scene. But you've got some believability problems ignoring the criminal charges, so I wouldn't worry about it too much.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

12-28-2014, 07:24 PM
Thank you for all of your insight!

And yes, this is incredibly sloppy for a crime scene, especially one for someone as prolific as the president--but I assure you he wasn't just shot in broad daylight. Without trying to a explain it all, the President in my WIP was doing some shady things under the radar that brought him here, hence some of the peculiar circumstances :)

So in terms of what to charge, looks like my character is going to go all out then--I think this will make the internalizations much more vivid now that I have more concrete details to add--reps around!

12-29-2014, 06:57 PM
Really depends upon the jurisdiction and mood of the prosecutor.

Exactly. It's not a crime until somebody gets charged... :)