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Becoming less intimidating a witness

opinion

Intimidating or tampering with a witness involves trying to get a witness to lie, say certain things under oath, alter or destroy evidence, or not testify or cooperate with authorities at all.

Others require a use of force, threat of force, or use of intimidation or coercion. Under the first type of statute, simply asking a witness to testify in your favor constitutes witness tampering.

The other statutes require that the person accused actually threatened or intimidated the witness. Coercion and intimidation can involve threats other than physical violence or property damage.

A witness Becoming less intimidating a witness could be threatened with harm to his business or reputation. The idea of witness tampering or intimidation probably brings to mind a defendant in a criminal case threatening a witness, but the defendant is not the only person who can be accused of or commit this crime.

If a relative or friend of the defendant threatens a witness or someone involved in or supporting the prosecution tries to bribe a witness, for example, both have committed witness tampering.

If the defendant is involved in witness tampering committed by another person, he also can be charged with a crime. For instance, if the defendant pays someone to contact a witness or is involved in planning a threat or attack on a witness, he could be charged with witness intimidation or conspiracy to commit the crime. In criminal cases, defendants often are ordered not to have contact with any witnesses while the case is pending.

Even if the court does not forbid contact, this is a best practice because contact can lead to accusations of witness tampering, whether or not tampering actually occurred. Criminal cases usually take several months to complete, if not years, and it simply is not realistic for people in close personal relationships not to have contact for such a long period. Lawyers often tell their clients not to talk about a case with anyone, but this also is not realistic if two people live together or were present at the same event and are involved in trial preparation together.

Even if a witness denies being influenced by the defendant, another Becoming less intimidating a witness or the prosecutor can accuse the defendant of improper influence. One option is for the defendant and the witnesses to be very careful about discussing case strategy and testimony. For example, spouses or close relatives and friends might agree only to discuss the case when they are with the attorney providing representation in the case. If a relationship with a witness is more distant, such as a co-worker relationship, the defendant can make it a practice to talk with the other person only about matters pertaining to work.

Defendants can sometimes get themselves in trouble with the belief that talking things out with a witness may help resolve the matter or convince the witness to see things differently.

A defendant should never do this alone or without an attorney present as it can easily result in the witness perceiving the conversation as an attempt to influence testimony. Of course, if the witness made a recording of a conversation in which witness tampering took place or something in writing supports the allegation, it is likely the accused will be convicted.

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