Inducing the Testimony of a Witness Through Force, Threat of Force or Fraud – Penal Code Section 137(b)

California law offers harsh punishment to any person who attempts to undermine the integrity of the criminal justice system by using force, threat of force or fraud to influence 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. The defendant attempted to affect a law enforcement investigation by:

a. Induce a person to give false testimony, or;

b. Induce a person to withhold true testimony, or;

c. Give false information pertaining to a crime, or;

d. Withhold material information pertaining to a crime.

AND

2. The defendant influenced or attempted to influence the person by:

a. Force, or;

b. The threat of force, or;

c. The use of fraud.1

Important Definitions:

Threat of force means a credible threat of unlawful injury to a person or his property.2

Punishment:

Any conviction under Section 137(b) is a felony punishable by probation and a local jail term of up to 365 days in jail, or by imprisonment in a county jail for 2, 3 or 4 years.3

Commentary:

Always be extremely careful when speaking to any witness or potential 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.

Although Section 137(b) carries a potential lengthy felony jail sentence of 2, 3 or 4 years, prosecutors will almost always opt to prosecute under Section 136.1.4 If you are accused of any form of witness intimidation, always decline to give a statement and ask for an attorney. Police officers are trained to lie and deceive suspects to obtain statements from them. Because the statutes punishing all forms of witness intimidation are so broad, you should be especially reluctant to speak to an officer. Consultation with a qualified criminal defense attorney could mean the difference between no prosecution and a lengthy prison term.

About the Author:

Bill Haney is a former major crimes attorney and supervising prosecutor in the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office.  Mr. Haney also serves as an adjunct faculty member at a major Southern California law school.  At your initial consultation, Mr. Haney will outline a defense that is designed to give you the best possible chance for a successful outcome in court.   Photo Apr 25, 6 56 02 PM

Sources Cited:

(1) Penal Code Section 137(b)
(2) Penal Code Section 137(b)
(3) Section 137(b) terms of imprisonment fall under California’s prison realignment scheme. (Section 11370(h). If a prison term is selected, the defendant will serve his sentence in a county jail.
(4) Penal Code Section 136.1 is a “strike.” If the district attorney proves that the offense was gang-related, the court could sentence the defendant to an indeterminate life sentence.

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