Michigan treats witness tampering very seriously. Any kind of bribing, intimidating, threatening, or other behavior that interferes with a witness in an official proceeding faces severe criminal penalties. There are several ways someone can be guilty of this offense. A person tampers with a witness when they do or attempt to do any of the following:
- Discourage that person from being a witness and testifying at a present or future official proceeding
- Influence that person’s testimony at a present or future official proceedings
- Encourage that person to withhold testimony, avoid legal process, or falsely testify at a present or future official proceeding
Bribing a Witness
This is when someone gives something or offers something of value to a witness. However, this does not prohibit a witness from being reimbursed or paid reasonable costs to testify such as travel, lodging, meals, etc. An “official proceeding” is a hearing before a judicial, legislative, administrative, or other governmental agency, or person authorized to hear evidence under oath.
Threatening or Intimidating a Witness
A person is prohibited from engaging in any behavior that would threaten or intimidate a witness.
Interference with a Witness
A person is prohibited from willfully impeding, interfering with, or preventing a witness from attending, testifying, or providing information or testimony at a present or future official proceeding. This includes any attempts to impede or obstruct the witness as well.
Retaliation Against a Witness
A person may not retaliate or attempt or threaten to retaliate against a witness in an official proceeding. Retaliation is defined as: 1) committing or attempting to commit a crime against any person, 2) threatening to injure or kill any person, or 3) threatening to cause property damage.
Key Provision of Witness Tampering
It doesn’t matter whether an official proceeding is pending, actually takes place, or the person has a subpoena to appear. They key is that the defendant must know or have reason to know the other person could be a witness at any official proceeding.
Defenses to Witness Tampering
It is not unlawful for an attorney to communicate with a witness as long as it is within the lawful performance of his duties and the contact is permitted by statute. It is not “threatening or intimidating” to communicate a potential lawful action to a witness, such as you are going to sue them or file a police report (as long as you would lawfully be permitted to do such things, they were not frivolous, and were not intended to harass the witness).
An affirmative defense is a defense that the defendant has to prove by a “preponderance of the evidence” which is more likely than not. It is the standard of proof used in civil cases. Ordinarily, the defense never has to prove or disprove anything; the burden of proof solely lies with the prosecution. However, if an affirmative or special defense is raised, that is a rare exception that requires the defendant to prove it. It is an affirmative defense to witness tampering if the defendant’s sole intention was to encourage, induce, or cause the other person to testify truthfully.
Penalties for Witness Tampering, Intimidation, Bribing, or Interference
If convicted of any kind of witness tampering, witness intimidation, witness interference, or bribing a witness, it is a felony punishable by up to four years in prison and/or $5,000 in fines. If the witness tampering occurs in a criminal case that has a maximum penalty of more than 10 years in prison, it is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine.
Michigan Witness Tampering Lawyer
As you can see, Michigan treats witness tampering very seriously. If you have been charges with tampering, intimidating, bribing, or interfering with a witness, contact Austin Legal Services, PLC today at (517) 614-1983 to speak to a Michigan witness intimidation lawyer.
Defending witness tampering, witness intimidation and other criminal charges throughout Michigan in the counties of Ingham, Eaton, Clinton, Ithaca, Livingston, Jackson, Kent, Barry, Shiawassee in the cities of Lansing, East Lansing, Mason, St. Johns, Charlotte, Brighton, Howell, Jackson, Grand Rapids, Hastings, Corunna, Durand.