When Might You Be Accused of Witness Tampering in California?
Witness tampering is a serious offense in California, and it should be avoided at all costs if you are facing charges. This crime is fairly unique because those committing the offense are usually already facing existing charges for other crimes. If you are caught tampering with a witness, you will essentially dig yourself into an even deeper hole – something that is obviously not in your best interests. Witness tampering can be prosecuted as a felony, and this makes it a risky strategy indeed. While some criminals might think that tampering with a witness is worth the risk, the truth is that this approach can easily backfire on you. But what exactly is witness tampering in California, and how should you react if you have been accused of this offense?
Examples of Witness Tampering
Witness tampering can manifest in many different ways. The typical example is intimidating a witness not to testify or provide witness in a trial. This may be associated with gang activity, where so-called “snitches” are universally detested and retaliated against. On February 17th, it was reported that a woman who was involved in a drug trafficking organization in California had been charged with witness tampering. This woman was a gang member who had apparently been involved in the murder of a witness. She also spoke with a gang member and learned the names of several witnesses set to testify against a defendant – later revealing these identities on social media and inviting other gang members to take action.
This goes to show that simply revealing the identity of witnesses online can be enough to constitute witness tampering in California. The rise of social media and technology makes witness tampering easier to commit – but it also makes it much easier to get caught. There are also much more overt examples of witness tampering, such as conspiring to kill witnesses set to testify against gang members.
Witness tampering can also manifest in much more subtle ways. On February 16th, it was reported that Sam Bankman-Fried could possibly face witness tampering charges for alleged actions he took during his stay at his parents’ home in Palo Alto, California. As part of his ongoing criminal trial for the FTX scandal, a federal judge pointed out that he could be charged with witness tampering because of his alleged communications with potential witnesses. SBF is well-versed in the arts of encrypted communication, and the fear is that he can easily use his parents’ devices to communicate with FTX’s general counsel and a range of other people connected with the case.
SBF has pleaded not guilty to fraud and conspiracy for misappropriating billions of dollars through his crypto exchange. Prosecutors are now pushing to limit SBF to just a couple of devices with built-in monitoring technology – especially after it became clear that the disgraced CEO was using a VPN to access the web from his parents’ home. They were less than impressed with Sam’s excuse: That he needed the VPN to watch a football game. They pointed out that he could have watched the game for free on normal television without using a VPN, and they expressed the opinion that he was attempting to conceal his online activities.
SBF is already in seriously hot water, and any attempt to tamper with witnesses will only make the situation worse. To say that he is on thin ice would be a serious understatement. With all that being said, this situation shows how easy it can be to face charges of witness tampering in the modern era – especially since simply sending a text message to the wrong person can be enough to convict someone like Sam Bankman-Fried.
What is the Penalty for Witness Tampering in California?
Witness tampering falls under Penal Code section 136.1: “Falsifying evidence, and bribing, influencing, intimidating, or threatening witnesses.” Under normal circumstances, this results in a maximum jail sentence of one year. But there are a number of aggravating circumstances that can result in felony charges and a maximum prison sentence of four years. These circumstances include:
- Any act of witness tampering accompanied by force – such as threats or violence
- Any act of conspiracy – such as organized attacks against witnesses by gangs
- Repeat offenders – those who have engaged in witness tampering before
- Witness tampering in exchange for money – such as a paid thug who intimidates witnesses in exchange for payment
As you can see, it is possible to be charged with witness tampering even if you are not already facing a trial. For example, you could be a gang member who acts on the orders of a boss who is on trial – locating and threatening a witness to ensure they do not testify. It is also worth mentioning that witness tampering can be prosecuted under federal and state laws. Witness tampering may also be accompanied by many other offenses, such as murder, attempted murder, assault, threats, interstate threats, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy. This can result in many years behind bars.
Before you engage in this type of illegal behavior, it always makes sense to speak with your defense attorney. They may have effective defense strategies that allow them to evade criminal consequences without risking further jail time.
Where Can I Find a Qualified, Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in California?
If you have been searching for a qualified criminal defense attorney in California, look no further than Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP. Over the years, we have helped numerous defendants in the Redlands area, and we can guide you toward the best possible outcome. If you are facing witness tampering or other related charges, your best bet is to speak with an attorney as soon as possible and develop an effective defense strategy. While the consequences for this offense can be serious, there s no sense in simply sitting back and accepting needlessly excessive penalties. With our help, you can approach this difficult situation with confidence and dignity. Reach out today.
Stephen Levine, is a Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Defense — an honor achieved by only the top criminal law attorneys in California. Mr. Levine has over 40 years of experience in criminal defense and family law serving Southern California, and is a highly regarded Super Lawyer as well as AV Rated attorney.