Witness Intimidation Found in Domestic Violence Case (CA Penal Code 136.1)

A 31-year-old man has recently been convicted of having intimidated a witness in a domestic violence case.  Authorities claim that this man was in a romantic relationship with a woman who accused him of having been psychologically abusive.  After ending the relationship, the man sent the woman an inordinate amount of text messages and tried to call her continually.  Once, according to witnesses, he attempted to intimidate the victim’s mother and children.  After this incident, things seemed to only get worse.  The man followed the woman, her mother, and her children into their home, vandalized expensive property belonging to the victim, and threatened them repeatedly with a firearm.

Having been influenced by what we seen on television, we often think of intimidation of witnesses to be something relegated to members of organized crime.  However, this violation of the law is more common that one might think.  California Penal Code 136.1 makes it a crime to attempt to or succeed at preventing a witness from reporting a crime or testifying about that crime.  This violation of the law is considered a California ‘wobbler,’ meaning that it is up to the discretion of the prosecutors to determine whether they will treat it as a misdemeanor or as a felony.  Usually, this decision is made by taking into consideration all the facts of a particular case.

If convicted of intimidating a witness as a misdemeanor, you may be sentenced to up to 1 year in county jail and be subject to a $1,000 fine.  However, if you are convicted of a felony count of the same, you may expect to spend up to 4 years in state prison and pay a $10,000 fine.  In the above case, there will likely be what are known as ‘sentencing enhancements’ due to the fact that the assailant used a firearm to accomplish the crime.  These enhancements include a maximum additional 10 years to an individual’s sentence.