Tampering with a Witness

For some people, the phrase “witness tampering” may bring to mind news articles or old movies about organized criminals conspiring to “silence” a witness through fear or violence in order to prevent them from taking the stand in a high-profile trial and positively identifying the defendants. Although deliberate intimidation of witnesses like this is certainly a crime in California, you can be charged with witness tampering even if you are guilty of much less.

You can find yourself charged with the crime of dissuading a witness for doing things like trying to convince a neighbor not to file a police report or encouraging a loved one to withhold information about a crime you committed from the cops. You can still face prosecution even if the witness or victim was not actually injured or intimidated, and even when the witness ultimately did end up testifying or speaking with law enforcement. If you have been charged with witness tampering, it is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can find the weaknesses in the prosecution’s case against you.

Attorney for Witness Tampering in Ventura, CA

If you are accused of tampering with or intimidating a witness, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Jay Leiderman Law.  Jay Leiderman has vigorously represented clients across the state in a broad range of criminal cases from petty theft to murder. With his primary office in Ventura, he works with clients in all nine other Ventura County cities – Camarillo, Fillmore, Moorpark, Ojai, Oxnard, Port Hueneme, Santa Paula, Simi Valley, and Thousand Oaks.

Contact Jay Leiderman Law to discuss the charges pending against you, the typical punishments imposed for each offense, and the most effective ways to fight the charges. Call (805) 654-0200 today to schedule a free, confidential strategy session.

Overview of Witness Tampering Law in California

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What is Witness Tampering?

California law provides for several different crimes related to tampering with a witness. The crime of witness tampering can be committed by preventing or dissuading a witness from reporting the crime or by intimidating a witness from attending court or giving testimony.

Under Section 136.1, the crime of intimidating a witness or victim requires proof of the following elements:

  • Knowingly and maliciously prevents or dissuades any witness or victim from attending or giving testimony at any trial, proceeding, or inquiry authorized by law.
  • Knowingly and maliciously attempts to prevent or dissuade any witness or victim from attending or giving testimony at any trial, proceeding, or inquiry authorized by law.

For the purposes of California’s statute prohibiting intimidating a witness, “evidence that the defendant was a family member who interceded in an effort to protect the witness or victim shall create a presumption that the act was without malice.”

Any person who tampers with or intimidates a witness or victim can be charged with a crime.

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Basic Witness Tampering

Any person who attempts to prevent or dissuade the victim of a crime or a witness to a crime from doing any of the following is guilty of a “wobbler” offense that can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor. It is a crime to attempt to prevent a victim or witness from:

  1. Making any report of that victimization to any peace officer or state or local law enforcement officer or probation or parole or correctional officer or prosecuting agency or to any judge.
  2. Causing a complaint, indictment, information, probation or parole violation to be sought and prosecuted, and assisting in the prosecution thereof.
  3. Arresting or causing or seeking the arrest of any person in connection with that victimization.

In the absence of any of the additional factors discussed in the next section below, this kind of basic witness tampering will typically be charged as a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year. If any of the conditions listed in the following section are met, witness tampering will automatically be charged as a felony and the defendant will be subject to incarceration in state prison instead.

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Felony Witness Tampering and Sentencing Enhancements

When witness tampering is committed knowingly and maliciously under any one or more of the following circumstances, the crime is automatically charged as a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years:

  • Where the act is accompanied by force or by an express or implied threat of force or violence, upon a witness or victim or any third person or the property of any victim, witness, or any third person.
  • Where the act is in furtherance of a conspiracy.
  • Where the act is committed by any person who has a prior conviction for witness tampering.
  • Where the act is committed by any person for pecuniary gain or for any other consideration acting upon the request of any other person. All parties to such a transaction are guilty of a felony.

The crime is committed regardless of the success or failure of the attempt (the witness does not have to actually be stopped from testifying, for example). Additionally, the fact that no person was injured physically, or was in fact intimidated, is not a defense against prosecution.

The court can impose an enhancement for great bodily injury where the injury inflicted was significant or substantial. The use of force during the commission of any offense is also considered a circumstance in aggravation of the crime.

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Additional Resources

California Penal Code Section 136.1 – Here is the plain text of California’s law against witness tampering as passed by the California legislature. Visit this site to learn how the crime is defined by reading the actual law that courts in California use to prosecute this crime. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help interpret the law and explain what must be proven in court for witness tampering charges to stick.

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Ventura County Witness Tampering Lawyer

Witness tampering is a serious crime and it is easier to be convicted of it than you think. A skilled, knowledgeable criminal defense firm like Jay Leiderman Law can assist you in preparing an effective defense by identifying and exploiting the weakness in the DA’s case. Jay Leiderman has spent years successfully defending clients across Ventura County against charges big and small in both state and federal court.

Don’t let your freedom, finances, career prospects, and reputation be jeopardized by a conviction for witness tampering. Call Jay Leiderman Law at (805) 654-0200 right now to set up a free initial consultation about how best to fight the charges pending against you.

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