Bribing a Law Enforcement Witness – Penal Code Section 137(a)
California law offers harsh punishment to any person who attempts to undermine the integrity of the criminal justice system by bribing or offering a bribe a person who is about to give information to law enforcement.
Elements of the Offense:
The prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
1. A person gave, offered or promised a bribe to:
a. A witness1, or
b. A person about to be called as a witness, or
c. A person about to give material information to law enforcement.
2. The defendant acted with the corrupt intent to persuade the person to agree that the bribe would unlawfully influence the testimony or information the person would give.2
A bribe means something of present or future value or advantage, or a promise to give something in the future, that is given or offered with a corrupt intent to unlawfully influence the person.3
Corrupt Intent is proven when a person is shown to act wrongfully in an effort to gain some advantage for himself.4
Any conviction under Section 137(a) is a felony punishable by felony probation and a local jail term of up to 365 days in jail, or by imprisonment in the California Department of Corrections for 16 months, 2 years or 3 years.
Family members and even attorneys should be very careful when speaking to any witness to a crime. If your statements are misconstrued in any way, police officials will certainly investigate you for some form of witness intimidation. In an abundance of caution, only a licensed attorney or professional investigator should speak to witnesses.
Law enforcement will almost always opt to use the more serious charge of witness intimidation under Section 136.1. This is particularly true in aggressive jurisdictions like Ventura County. If you are questioned about any alleged act of witness intimidation, always decline to give a statement to a police officer and respectfully ask for an attorney.
About the Author:
Bill Haney is a former supervising prosecutor and major crimes attorney in the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office. He also teaches law at a major Southern California law school. At your initial client consultation, Mr. Haney will outline a defense that is designed to give you the best possible chance for a successful outcome in court.
(1) The information provided by the “witness” does not have to actually relate to the elements of the charge contained in the defendant’s criminal complaint, indictment or information. (People v. Cribas (1991) 231 Cal.Ap.3d 596, 610-611.)
(2) Penal Code Section 137(a); CALCRIM 2610.
(3) CALCRIM 2610.
(4) CALCRIM 2610.