Protection of Government ProcessesOmnibus Clause
18 U.S.C. § 1505
The omnibus clause of 18 U.S.C. § 1505 parallels its
in 18 U.S.C. § 1503 in language and purpose, and most of the law
the latter is applicable to the former. Generally, a defendant may be found
guilty under section 1505 if the government establishes that: (1) there was
proceeding pending before a department or agency of the United States; (2)
defendant knew of or had a reasonably founded belief that the proceeding was
pending; and (3) the defendant corruptly endeavored to influence, obstruct,
impede the due and proper administration of the law under which the
was pending. United States v. Price, 951 F.2d 1028, 1030-31 (9th
1991); United States v. Sprecher, 783 F. Supp. 133, 163 (S.D.N.Y.
Like section 1503, the omnibus clause of 18 U.S.C. § 1505
a corrupt state of mind. See United States v. Browning, 630
694, 700-01 (10th Cir. 1980), cert. denied, 451 U.S. 988 (1981).
See generally this Manual at
But see United States v. Poindexter, 951 F.2d 369, 386 (D.C.
1991), in which the United States Court of Appeals for the District of
reversed Poindexter's convictions under section 1505 because the term
"corruptly," as used in this section, was unconstitutionally vague as
the defendant's conduct, which included preparing false documents and
them to Congress, as well as testifying falsely before Congress. In an
response to Poindexter, Congress enacted a clarifying amendment
obstructing Congress. Section three of the False Statements Accountability
of 1996 amended 18 U.S.C. § 1515 by adding a new subsection defining
"corruptly" as used in section 1505 to mean "acting with an improper
personally or by influencing another, including making a false or misleading
statement, or withholding, concealing, altering, or destroying a document or
other information." Pub. L. No. 104-292, § 3, 110 Stat. 3459, 3460.
Section 1505 is constrained, like its counterpart in 18 U.S.C.
1503, by the requirement that there be a pending proceeding. Some courts
applied the pending proceeding requirement in a relaxed manner. United
v. Schwartz, 924 F.2d 410, 423 (2d Cir. 1991); United States v.
941 F.2d 181, 199 (3d Cir. 1991). For example, in United States v.
Fruchtman, 421 F.2d 1019, 1021 (6th Cir.), cert. denied, 400 U.S.
(1970), the Sixth Circuit held that the term "proceeding" is "of broad
encompassing both the investigative and adjudicative functions of a
Other cases appear to impose a slightly stricter pending proceeding
requirement that requires a formal act. See Rice v. United
356 F.2d 709, 713, 715 (8th Cir. 1966) (in a case arising under the
portion of former section 1505, the court found the requisite proceeding and
stressed that the intimidating act followed the filing of unfair labor
with the Regional Director of the National Labor Relations Board by the
individuals who were intimidated).
Investigations by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) constitute a
section 1505 proceeding. See United States v. Lewis, 657 F.2d
45 (4th Cir.) (ploy to frustrate IRS effort to collect delinquent taxes),
cert. denied, 454 U.S. 1086 (1981); United States v. Vixie,
F.2d 1277, 1278 (9th Cir. 1976) (per curiam) (submission of false document
response to IRS subpoena); United States v. Persico, 520 F. Supp. 96,
101-02 (E.D.N.Y. 1981) (endeavor to bribe IRS agent to influence IRS's
investigation of individual's tax liability). Similarly viewed are
investigations by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission,
States v. Sprecher, 783 F. Supp. at 164, and the United States Customs
Service, United States v. Schwartz, 924 F.2d at 423. However,
investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are not section
proceedings. United States v. Higgins, 511 F. Supp. 453, 455-56
1981); see also United States v. Scoratow, 137 F. Supp.
621-22 (W.D. Pa. 1956) (FBI investigation is not a 18 U.S.C. § 1503
"proceeding"). But cf. 18 U.S.C. §§ 1510 and
[cited in Criminal Resource Manual 1729; Criminal Resource Manual 1730]