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Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney
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About Intimidating a Witness

If you watch crime shows on television or movies involving criminal cases, you’ve probably seen episodes or films where a witness was intimidated by the perpetrators of a crime. For example, a man witnesses a gang-related crime and the leader of the gang comes up to the man and says something to the effect of, “If you go to the police, we’ll hunt you down and take you out.” This is one scenario where Hollywood does depict real-life.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for witnesses of crimes to be threatened, especially when the prosecution’s case relies heavily on eyewitness testimony. That being said, California, like other states, has adopted a law that makes intimidating a witness a crime.

Under Chapter 6, Section 136.1 of the California Penal Code, it is against the law to influence, intimidate, or threaten a witness. Under this section, it’s illegal to knowingly and maliciously:

  • Prevent or dissuade a witness or victim from giving their testimony at any inquiry, legal proceeding or trial.
  • Attempt to prevent a witness or victim from attending trial or any legal proceeding or inquiry.

The act of influencing, intimidating or threatening a witness under Sec. 136.1 is a public offense, punishable by up to one year in county jail or state prison. However, the offense is a felony under the following circumstances, punishable by two, three, or four years in state prison:

  • The act was accompanied by force.
  • The act involved the implied threat of violence or force.
  • The act involved a threat of violence against a third person (e.g. the victim’s friends or family).
  • The act furthered some sort of a conspiracy.
  • The act was committed by someone for financial gain (the actor was paid to intimidate, threaten or harm the victim or witness). Anyone who participates in such a transaction commits a felony.

According to Sec. 136.1(e) of the California Penal Code, “Nothing in this section precludes the imposition of an enhancement for great bodily injury where the injury inflicted is significant or substantial.”

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