Witness tampering, or even the appearance or suspicion of witness tampering, can ruin a court case. Because it destroys the appearance of impartiality, it creates at least the appearance of an unfair trial. As a result, witness tampering is taken very seriously by authorities and in Kentucky is considered a Class D felony, which can be added on to already existing charges.
If you or a loved one has been accused of witness tampering, it is important to retain legal representation as soon as possible. The Kentucky Criminal Defense Association (KYCDA) has both the resources and experience to help. Being charged with witness tampering can have serious consequences, and the legal system can be a labyrinth. Legal representation can help navigate the maze, and KYCDA has the ability to help.
Witness Tampering and Attempting to Influence a Case
Most cases are so commonplace that there is very little concern about witness tampering. However, because of the threat in certain other cases, it is not uncommon for special precautions to be made to protect witnesses from threats and intimidation, including, in extreme circumstances, enrollment in the witness protection program. Witness tampering encompasses much more than intimidating witnesses, and, according to the Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS), may include:
- Receipt of bribe by witness – Bribing witnesses is one of the most obvious forms of witness tampering. In this case, the law defines it as giving a witness any benefit to influence the case.
- Intimidating a participant in the legal process – This occurs when physical violence or threats are used to influence a witness.
- Tampering with a witness – Tampering with a witness may include the rest of the definitions, but essentially is when an individual, by whatever means, attempts to influence a witness in order to keep them from participating in the legal process or to make false statements.
- Retaliating against a participant in the legal process – Like intimidating, this includes the physical violence or the threat of physical violence or harm, whether to a person or their property, for participating in the legal process.
- Bribing a juror – This technically isn’t witness tampering, as a juror is not a witness in the case, but is closely related in that it illegally tries to influence the outcome of a case. Bribing a juror is essentially offering benefits to a juror in order to influence the outcome of a case.
- Bribe receiving by a juror – As with bribing a juror, it is also illegal for a juror to accept any benefit in order to illegally affect or try to affect the outcome of a case.
- Tampering with physical evidence – This includes removing or destroying physical evidence or entering false physical evidence in order to influence a case.
One of the most common forms of witness tampering is intimidation. Intimidation most commonly appears in the form of:
- implicit threats, looks, or gestures
- explicit threats of violence
- actual physical violence
- property damage
- other threats, such as challenges to child custody or immigration status.
More specifically, offenders may:
- confront witnesses verbally
- send notes and letters
- make nuisance phone calls
- park or loiter outside the homes of witnesses
- damage witnesses’ houses or property
- threaten witnesses’ children, spouses, parents, or other family members
- assault or even murder witnesses or their family members.
Among other forms of intimidation, what is becoming slightly more prominent is digital intimidation, NBC News reports, especially in larger cities like Philadelphia. This intimidation occurs primarily through the use of social media sites, including Instagram, Facebook and twitter. NBC reports that an online database has even been formed. All of these platforms release the names and photos of witnesses, as well as, in some cases, their statements, in hopes of scaring a witness away from testifying. Even printing the names of those who have testified previously is a way to intimidate those who may decide to testify in the future.
Witness tampering in the state of Kentucky is considered a Class D felony. Penalties for Class D felonies include one to five years in prison and a fine of $1,000 to $10,000. For different attempts to influence a case, different classes of felonies may apply. Penalties may also be affected by the status of the defendant; for example, if the defendant has previous offenses or there are mitigating circumstances, the class of the felony, the charges and sentence may become more severe.
Aside from witness tampering at the state level, in federal cases witness tampering becomes a federal crime with stiffer penalties. If physical force is used, the penalty is up to 20 years; if it is only threatened, the penalty is up to 10 years.
Kentucky Criminal Defense Attorneys are a network of criminal defense attorneys located throughout the state. If you have questions or seek a consultation, contact us at 859-685-1055 or through our website.