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Intimidating a witness

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A conviction for misdemeanor witness intimidation carries a possible sentence of: A conviction for felony witness intimidation carries a possible sentence of up to 4 years in a California state penitentiary and fines of up to $25,000.

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It states that a person commits an offence if he ‘does an act which intimidates, and is intended to intimidate another person and he does the act knowing or believing that the victim is assisting in the investigation of an offence or is a witness or potential witness or a juror or potential juror in proceedings for an offence and he does it intending thereby to cause the investigation or the course of justice to be obstructed, perverted or interfered with.’ The person complaining against the defendant must actually be intimidated, the offence cannot be committed if they were not (R v N(Z) 2013)- there is no judicial definition of intimidation but the dictionary definition is ‘to frighten or threaten someone, usually in order to persuade that person to do something that you want them to do’.Other relevant parts of the Act are: Subsection 3 of the Act states that it is immaterial that the act is or would be done or that the threat is made – - Otherwise than in the presence of the victim or - To a person other than the victim So in short the threat does not have to be either realistic or direct – indirect threats are as much capable of being witness intimidation as a direct threat to the person intended to be intimidated.So for example an unrealistic threat that ‘I’ll drop a nuclear bomb on your house’ can still be a qualifying threat as can a threat made to a 3 party that is then communicated to the victim.Witnesses and witness testimony are essential to the criminal justice system.Many crimes are brought to the attention of law enforcement by witnesses.Subsection 4 states that the harm that is threatened may be financial as well as physical – to a person or their property.

This means that the threat need not just be ‘I’ll beat you up’ it could equally be ‘I’ll ruin your businesses.

Your attempts to intimidate a witness do not have to be successful.

You can be charged with witness intimidation even if you aren’t successful at keeping a witness from reporting a crime or testifying.

As the offence almost inevitably involves the word of one person against another it is vitally important that someone accused of such an offence is skilfully and ably represented.

It is also important that all surrounding circumstances of the alleged intimidation are thoroughly investigated- often the offence does not occur in a vacuum and investigation of extraneous evidence such as text messages, CCTV and other potential evidential background should be undertaken.

During this meeting, we will review your case, make sure that your legal rights have not been violated, and answer the questions you have.