When it comes to matters of the penal code, it can be pretty easy to get confused over the letter of the law and miss the underlying meaning entirely. This is because the law wasn’t necessarily written with the average reader in mind, but rather lawyers who have had years of experience at interpreting the law and using it to the advantage of their clients. With that said, if you break down what you’ll find in the penal code into easy to understand chunks of information and deal with it one step at a time, it all becomes pretty easy to understand, even to the layman reader. In this post we’re going to take a look at the crime of dissuading a witness or victim. We’re going to explore the definitions, the punishments, as well as the potential defenses that you might be able to use in your favor. Let’s get started.
What this law does is it basically makes it illegal to either prevent or attempt to prevent a witness or else victim of a crime from reporting the crime or testifying about it. In order to actually convict you of this crime, the prosecutor has to prove that you both knowingly and maliciously did this action that prevented the witness or victim from either reporting the crime, aiding in the prosecution of the crime, or helping out in the arrest process. It’s important to note that in general this offense is a wobbler, which basically means that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. However, if you engage in one of these acts as part of a conspiracy, or by using force against someone, or even if you’ve previously been convicted of this crime in the past, then it becomes an automatic felony. Again, the important thing to take note of in all of this is that you have to do these actions knowingly and maliciously. As far as potential punishments go, if you’re convicted of the misdemeanor version of this crime you face up to a year in county jail, as well as a maximum fine of a thousand dollars. Being convicted of this misdemeanor charge will also put into effect a ten year ban on your right to either own or acquire a firearm. If you’re charged with the felony version of this crime, you’ll be facing sixteen months to four years in state prison, along with a ten thousand dollar fine.
There are some potential defenses that you can use when charged with either the misdemeanor or felony version of this crime. One defense that you can use is that you had a lack of knowledge or intent. If you didn’t know the person was a witness or didn’t maliciously try to interfere, you could use this as a defense. Another defense is that this was the result of a false accusation or wrongful arrest, and lastly you can use the defense that there was insufficient evidence to bring you to trial.
As you can see, once you break the law down into easy to understand chunks and make it more about the underlying meaning and less about the actual language involved, it becomes that much easier to use the law in your favor and get the help you need. So if one of the defenses we’ve listed applies to you, it’ll be that you reach out as soon as possible and get the counsel that you need. We would be glad to help you with anything you might need.