The Seriousness of a Witness Tampering Charge in Miami, Florida
If you have been charged with a criminal offense, it may be your first instinct to ask close friends and family members to “vouch for you,” or to give you an alibi. If they say that they cannot lie for you, you may ask them to not take the stand, or even threaten them. Each of these actions—from asking a witness to lie to threatening him or her—is referred to as “intimidating a witness,” or “witness tampering.” According to Florida Statute 914.22, witness tampering is a felony, and depending on the severity of the intimidation or tampering, it is a crime punishable by up to life in prison.
What is Witness Tampering?
Intimidating or tampering with a witness is the act of knowingly using intimidation, force, threats, or any other attempts to get another individual to engage in misleading conduct during a criminal investigation and trial. Additionally, tampering with a witness could involve the use of bribes to induce another individual to act in a certain way during a criminal investigation. Examples of witness tampering include:
- Offering a witness a bribe of money, material goods, or some other benefit in exchange for their cooperation;
- Threatening a witness with physical violence or other harmful actions if they refuse to do what you ask;
- Threatening to harm an individual’s loved ones if they refuse to do what you ask;
- Asking or threatening a witness to lie under oath;
- Blackmailing an individual in order to get them to do what you ask;
- Threatening an individual’s employment in order to get them to do what you ask;
- Asking a witness to not attend your legal proceedings, or to not cooperate with the police; and
- Preventing a witness from attending your legal proceedings or from cooperating with the police.
Witness tampering is not exclusive to the defendant of a criminal investigation, and can be committed by any number of individuals, such as the defendant’s mother, the defendant’s girlfriend, or even someone who stands to lose something should the defendant be found guilty. Any individual who tries to influence a witness’s testimony in any way – whether on the defendant’s behalf or the prosecution’s behalf – will be charged with witness tampering, and, if convicted, be subject to the correlating punishment.
Preventing Witness Tampering
The courts try to prevent witness tampering by disallowing communication between the defendant and any witnesses to the crime, but oftentimes, this proves to be easier said than done. For instance, if a defendant is out on bail pending the outcome of their trial, it is impossible to restrict their contact with friends and family members. While the defendant’s criminal defense lawyer may try their best to sway their client from talking about the case with anyone, the reality is that there is only so much control the courts and lawyers have over the situation.
If a prosecutor learns of your communication with a witness, they may try to accuse you of improper influence, even if no tampering was actually committed.
Proving Witness Tampering
If you are accused of witness tampering, the prosecutor still has to present clear and convincing evidence of the crime. For instance, it is not enough for a witness to approach the prosecutor and tell them that you tried to get them to lie under oath, or that you threatened their reputation if they did not revoke their testimony. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you engaged in witness tampering and/or intimidation, which will require hard evidence.
Hard evidence could include a video recording, a written statement from you to the witness, a recorded phone call, or text messages. If the tampering was done verbally, with no recording whatsoever, the prosecutor may still be able to present a strong case against you if they have some sort of evidence corroborating what the witness said, such as a receipt for a gun purchase shortly after they said you threatened them, or a traffic citation doled out on the very day the threat was supposedly administered, and on the very street that the witness lives on.
Consult a Criminal Defense Lawyer
At The Baez Law Firm, our Miami criminal defense lawyers aggressively fight to have the sentences lower or charges dropped entirely for each of our clients. If you have been charged with witness tampering, contact our criminal law firm right away, and let our experienced legal team handle your defense. To schedule a consultation with one of our criminal defense lawyers, do not hesitate, and call 800-588-BAEZ right away.