“Witness tampering,” also known as “tampering with a witness” and “intimidating a witness,” is defined as an attempt to alter or prevent a witness’s testimony in a criminal or civil court proceeding. It can also apply to other proceedings where witness testimony is important, such as Congressional hearings and arbitration sessions.
The person engaged in witness tampering can face misdemeanor or felony charges, depending on the circumstances involved in the case, even if they were not completely successful in their tampering efforts. Some states include witness tampering under obstruction of justice laws.
What Qualifies as Witness Tampering?
There are many acts that could be considered as witness tampering. The exact details of what qualifies as witness tampering depends on the applicable state laws, which may differ from state to state. Some states require the use of physical force or threats of physical harm in order for an act to be considered as witness tampering. However, other states may include tampering by any means, including bribery or verbal intimidation.
Some other types of conduct and situations that might lead to witness tampering charges include:
- Convincing the witness to lie
- Engaging in stalking, harassment, or telephone harassment of the witness
- Instructing a witness to say specific things while under oath in court
- Altering or destroying physical evidence or exhibits
- Threatening property damage in order to influence a witness
- Causing the person to not cooperate with authorities, or causing them to not testify at all
- Requesting a witness to testify in the person’s favor
Are There Any Legal Penalties for Witness Tampering?
As mentioned previously, witness tampering can lead to misdemeanor or felony charges. Again, exact penalties and sentencing details may depend on state statute. For instance, tampering with a witness, a victim, or an informant can lead to a sentence of up to 10 years, plus various criminal fines and fees. In cases where physical force was used or where threats of force were used, the sentence may be increased to up to 20 years.
In addition, a person found guilty of witness tampering may also face civil fines or damages if their tampering caused losses to any parties involved in the lawsuit.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Witness Tampering Charges?
Witness tampering is a serious violation. It can lead to misdemeanor or even felony consequences, depending on the circumstances involved in the case. You may need to hire a criminal law attorney in your area if you are being implicated in witness tampering or witness intimidation charges. Your attorney can provide legal assistance and representation during court hearings.