California Penal Code 136.1 PC
PC 136.1 – Intimidating a Witness or Victim
Intimidating a Witness or Victim – Table of Contents
- PC 136.1 Overview
- PC 136.1 Sentencing
- PC 136.1 Prosecuting
- PC 136.1 Defending
- Intimidating Witness or Victim – Hire Us
Falsifying Evidence, and Bribing, Influencing, Intimidating or Threatening Witnesses, CA Penal Code 136.1 PC, is defined by the state as preventing or attempting to prevent a witness or victim from attending or testifying at any trial or lawfully organized proceeding.
Broadly, PC 136.1 is often referred to as “tampering with a witness,” and the law is designed to protect witnesses and victims from harassment, and also to ensure the fair and orderly administration of justice.
As with many crimes, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand the law, especially when you may not have realized certain acts are prohibited. This is particularly true with a crime such as intimidating a witness because you may genuinely be unaware that discussing a case or upcoming trial with a witness can potentially be unlawful.
Notably, courts have held that the law “focuses on an unlawful goal or effect, the prevention of testimony” and therefore, there is no list of particular acts that are prohibited under PC 136.1, but rather the “cumulative outcome of any number of acts, any one of which alone might not be criminal.” See People v. Salvanto, 234 Cal. App. 3d 872, 883 (Ct. App. 1991).
In other words, you may be communicating with a witness in a way that by itself is not a crime, but if there is a broader goal or intent to dissuade the witness from testifying, then you may be accused of violating CA Penal Code 136.1 PC for intimidating a witness.
The law, however, requires both knowledge and malice, which means that you must know you are acting in a way that is prohibited and that you intend to do an unlawful act.
Falsifying Evidence, and Bribing, Influencing, Intimidating or Threatening Witnesses, CA Penal Code 136.1 PC is a “wobbler” under California law, which means the prosecutor may file either a misdemeanor or felony charge.
In general, a conviction for a misdemeanor charge under PC 136.1 can result in penalties including:
- custody in county jail for up to six months and/or
- a fine up to $1,000
A felony conviction for PC 136.1 can include the following penalties:
- custody in state prison for up to four years and/or
- a fine up to $10,000
Notably, there are some situations that under the law must be prosecuted as a felony pursuant to PC 163.1 (C). Specifically, PC 136.1 must be charged as a felony in several enumerated situations including:
- the use of force or threat of force or violence
- the act is in furtherance of a conspiracy
- a prior conviction for tampering with a witness
- when there is pecuniary gain
In any criminal case, the prosecutor has the burden of proof. While that means that a defendant does not technically need to produce any evidence for an acquittal, an experienced defense attorney can evaluate the evidence and identify the strengths and weaknesses of the case. This is incredibly helpful because an attorney can persuade a prosecutor to reduce or drop the charges if the case is weak.
On the other hand, if the prosecutor has strong evidence for trial, then your attorney can argue for a favorable plea agreement and therefore avoid a costly, potentially lengthy and stressful criminal trial.
In order for a conviction for intimidating a witness or victim under PC 136.1, the prosecutor must prove a person acted knowingly and maliciously to prevent or dissuade a victim or witness from appearing or testifying at a legal proceeding. Specifically, the law prohibits:
- preventing or dissuading a witness to testify
- preventing or dissuading a witness from attending a court proceeding
- interfering with the reporting of a crime by a victim
- interfering with the arrest of someone accused of a crime.
Notable, the mere attempt to tamper with a witness under PC 136.1 is a crime. In other words, the effort to prevent or dissuade a witness from testifying does not have to be successful. The statute is written broadly to include not only intimidating witnesses and victims, but includes any attempt to impeded the process of arresting or prosecuting a crime by law enforcement or prosecutors.
Moreover, the acts can occur instantaneously or over a period of time, and the focus is on the cumulative impact of the acts, and not necessarily one particular event.
Significantly, the statute also requires the prosecution to prove that the act was done knowingly and maliciously. In other words, that the person was aware that the intimidating act was unlawful and there was an intent to injure or annoy the witness or victim.
In any criminal case, an experienced defense attorney will evaluate the evidence and discuss the strengths and weaknesses in order to best advise you in the likely event the prosecutor will offer a plea bargain.
Moreover, an attorney can make sure you understand the law and potential penalties. Similarly, if the evidence is particularly weak, your attorney can persuade the prosecutor to drop the charges and ensure you beat your case without the inconvenience of a trial.
If the case proceeds to trial, an experienced defense attorney can present a defense that will result in an acquittal.
Common defenses to CA Penal Code 136.1 PC, Falsifying Evidence, and Bribing, Influencing, Intimidating or Threatening Witnesses, include:
- no knowledge or malice to intimidate or dissuade
- no witness or victim (even if there was intimidation, the act was directed at a person who is not a witness or victim)
- no threats, intimidation or tampering occurred
Notably, the statute also specifies under PC 136.1(3) that when a person is a family member of a witness or victim and acts to “protect the witness or victim,” there will be a presumption that the person is acting without malice, which is required for a conviction under PC 136.1. In other words, there is an exception to the crime when the accused is a family member of the witness and victim because family members should be encouraged to discuss the case freely with the witness or victim, and not fear arrest.
Certainly, an experienced criminal defense attorney is important to win your case at trial, but an attorney can do more than provide a strong defense. An attorney can ensure that your constitutional rights are protected. In other words, an attorney can make sure that the law enforcement officers and prosecutor do not infringe on your rights during the entire criminal justice process beginning with the arrest.
If you have been charged with a Tampering with a Witness, it is important to contact a skilled criminal defense attorney right away. Seppi Esfandi is an Expert Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney who has over 20 years of practice defending a variety of criminal cases, including PC 136.1, Falsifying Evidence, and Bribing, Influencing, Intimidating or Threatening Witnesses.
Consult a licensed criminal defense attorney to get advice about the details of your case.
Need a Criminal Defense Attorney? CALL NOW: 310-274-6529
Seppi Esfandi is an Expert Criminal Defense Attorney who has over 20 years of practice defending a variety of criminal cases.
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