What To Know About Witness Tampering In Texas Criminal Trials
Witness tampering, as most people know it, is the stuff of mob movies and scandalous crime tales, but it is a real crime that happens more often than one might guess. A person accused of witness tampering can face penalties at the federal or state level – or both – and a punishment including serious prison time and fines.
What is Witness Tampering?
Witness tampering happens when someone acts in a way to silence or change the testimony of a witness in either a civil or criminal case. Generally, if it happens during a state-level case, witness tampering will be prosecuted at the state level. If witness tampering occurs during a federal case, it gets handled at the federal level under 18 U.S. Code Sec. 1512. Witness tampering – also known as witness intimidation – can take form in any number of ways, including:
- Using or threatening physical force toward a witness or potential witness;
- Attempting to bribe a witness to change their testimony;
- Threatening to harm the family of a witness if they testify against them;
- Using social media or text messages to threaten or intimidate the witness;
- Blackmailing a witness;
- Threatening the job or livelihood of a witness;
- Using the friends or family of a witness against them.
Frequently, these acts will happen between the start of a case and the start of a trial. Sometimes, they can also happen between the time a crime occurs and the time the defendant is charged with a crime.
What is the Law in Texas on Witness Tampering?
Under Texas Penal Code Sec. 36.05, a person commits the offense of witness tampering if they influence or coerce a witness or potential witness in a court proceeding to:
- Testify falsely;
- Withhold testimony, information, documents, or other evidence;
- Evade legal process or summons;
- Fail to appear for a court proceeding they were summoned to;
- “Abstain from, discontinue, or delay” the prosecution of another person.
If a witness does any of the above in exchange for any type of benefit (financial or otherwise) from the defendant, they too can be prosecuted for their role in the tampering incident.
What are the Penalties for Witness Tampering in Texas?
In most cases, witness tampering in Texas is a third-degree felony, punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison. A $10,000 fine can also be assessed to those convicted of this crime. The penalties can escalate if the alleged tampering takes place during a family violence case, or if the alleged tamperer was previously convicted of family violence.
Defending Against a Witness Tampering Charge in Texas
A witness tampering case can be complex because it involves acts that can be misinterpreted or taken out of context. Something a defendant might have meant as an innocent or joking communication could be interpreted much differently by law enforcement and prosecutors. Once a tampering charge has been filed, a defendant faces serious penalties on top of the ones they face in their underlying case. It is critical at this point to retain skilled legal counsel that will fight your witness tampering charge every step of the way.
If You Are Charged With Witness Tampering in Texas, Contact Our Pearland, Texas Criminal Defense Attorney Today
Witness tampering is taken seriously by both state and federal prosecutors. Regardless of the act that is alleged to be tampering, you must act fast if you face a witness tampering charge. The potential punishment for witness tampering in Texas is simply too severe to be taken lightly. At Keith B. French Law, our Pearland criminal lawyers will prepare the strongest defense possible in your case. To learn more about your legal rights and options in a witness tampering case, contact the offices of Keith B. French Law, PLLC online or call 832-243-6153 today.