Dissuading A Witness In California – Penal Code 136.1 PC
Over the course of the past twenty-five years, I've seen a number of these cases prosecuted by both the District and City Attorneys in Los Angeles County. Frequently, these types of cases are related to domestic violence incidents.
There are a number of different ways of dissuading or intimidating a witness case that can be prosecuted by way of California Penal Code Section 136.1.
Typically, where I'm seeing it come up is when a witness is in court actually and ready to testify against another person – whether it be some sort of a violent felony or any type of case for that matter – a gang case and somebody, whether it's the defendant or the defendant's friends or family, will go up to that witness and say something to them to basically try to stop them from testifying against the particular person.
Physical Force Not Required
They don't have to grab them or do anything physical to them. If they subtly say something that makes it clear they are trying to intimidate or dissuade them from testifying, that would be enough for a dissuading or intimidating witness case.
I've seen these cases prosecuted. I've seen people arrested right in the courthouse because they told the prosecutor and the investigating officer on the case that somebody came up to them and said something to them that scared them and that it was clear that they didn't want them to testify.
So, the bottom line when it comes to these dissuading or intimidating witness cases is they can come up with a lot of different ways.
It's not just in a courtroom. Somebody could go to a person's house, whether it's again, a friend or a family member – it doesn't actually have to be the defendant in the case, and say, listen, if you go and testify against me, I'm going to get in big trouble.
I'm going to lose my job. I'm going to lose my family. I'm going to get thrown in jail. Please don't go and testify. That's not actually threatening anybody.
That's just trying to play on the person's sympathy to get them not to testify. But the prosecutors and police would see that as intimidating one of their witnesses. In other words, you cannot go and say anything to someone who is a witness or potential witness in a case to make it so that they don't want to testify.
Another example would be – let's say that one spouse hits another spouse, and you have a domestic violence situation, and it's being prosecuted in one of the Los Angeles courts, and the spouse that's the defendant gets to the other spouse – whether by phone or in person – and tells them, listen don't testify against me. All you have to do is don't show up to court, and then they won't have their witness.
That technically is an intimidating or dissuading witness case, and the prosecutors can find out about it, and they've got a witness to it, then they're going to prosecute you. That's like a $100,000.00 bail for intimidating a witness, and obviously, the judges and court because that's part of the court system – take that type of behavior very seriously.
When you interfere with the inner workings of the criminal justice system, that's the very lifeblood that gives these guys a job – the judges, the prosecutors – and if they see anything like that they're going to come at you full guns a-blazing, and they're going to try to put you in prison. Not just jail – prison, if they can prove that you did something like that.
Legal Defenses for Intimidating Or Dissuading A Witness
One defense is, I didn't say anything that was intimidating or dissuading that person. That person is mad at me. They're trying to get me in trouble.
They have obviously got a case filed against me, and they're trying to do everything they possibly can so that I go down and I'm sent to jail or prison for as long as possible.
Other possible defenses to intimidating or dissuading a witness case are obviously going to spin on the facts of the case. In other words, you can't just say well yeah, you can do this defense every single time. Let's see what happened in the case.
What are they claiming? What are the arguments by the other side as far as what you did? And then, depending on what the circumstances are and your version of events, then a defense attorney can develop a strategy and a defense for you that makes sense and speaks to the allegations, and obviously speaks to negate some of the elements of the crime of intimidating or dissuading a witness in Los Angeles County.
Charges of Intimidation
In the state of California, you can not just go around intimidating people and threatening people. You will be charged with a crime and the crime of intimidation can be charged against any person who shares a household, such as a husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, cohabitants, or parents of children.
Behavior and conduct that suffices as intimidation are: threatening the person to stop them from filing a report or calling the police; raising your voice, yelling, and screaming at the person; breaking things to impose fear. These are all forms of intimidation and can result in serious consequences.
Verbal communication can get out of control in domestic relationships, and once the authorities get involved, the situation escalates, and the courts come into play. Once you are facing charges of intimidation, it is imperative that you hire an attorney that will assist you in this matter.
We understand the effect a charge like this may have on your reputation, your family, and your relationship. That is why we do everything we can to build a strong defense and get the best results possible.
Penalties Associated With Intimidation
The criminal offense of intimidation can be charged either as a felony or a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor conviction will result in some minor jail time and fines, but a felony conviction will likely result in 2 to 4 years in state prison and fines as high as $10,000.
With intimidation, it is basically one person's word against another person and is, in fact, difficult for a judge and jury to assess. This is where we step in as your advocate and present a strong, persuasive defense on your behalf. Contact us to set up a free case evaluation, and as your lawyer, we guarantee to represent you with the highest level of professional standards.