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Dissuading a Witness Law & Defense

PC 136.1 Crimes

The law against dissuading or preventing a witness from testifying is found at California PC 136.1(a) and 137(b).

The most common charge of dissuading or preventing a witness from testifying is found at penal code section 136.1(a). This article deals mostly with that crime; however, we have included information on similar crimes at the bottom of this article.

PC 136.1(a) Law

To prove that the defendant dissuaded (or attempted to dissuade) a witness from testifying, the District Attorney must prove:

  • The Defendant used force or threats against a victim or witness

  • When the Defendant used force or threats against a victim his or her purpose was to influence a witness either to not testify, or to testify falsely.

Dissuading a witness includes any type of the following: bribery, threats, force, physical interference, and, physical preventing. Any witness or victim in a civil or criminal proceeding may be a victim.

The defendant may also be charged with PC 136.1(a) if he dissuaded a witness from giving important information to a prosecutor, defense attorney, or police officer.

PC 136.1(a) Penalties

Almost every criminal charge of dissuading or preventing a witness from testifying under PC 136.1(a) is classified as a felony. However, non-threatening dissuading or preventing a witness from testifying could be classified as misdemeanor.

Prison or Jail: If found guilty of felony preventing or dissuading a witness from testifying, the defendant could face up to three years in prison. Misdemeanor PC 136.1(a) convictions subject the defendant to up to 180 days in the county jail as a maximum sentence.

Probation Sentence: A probation sentence is period of supervision as opposed to jail or prison. Probation sentence are allowed in PC 136.1(a) cases, but whether or not the defendant is granted a probation sentence after a conviction for PC 136.1(a) depends largely on the facts of the case and the defendant's criminal history, if any.

PC 1170(h) Sentence: If the defendant is convicted of witness intimation as a felony, and the defendant is not granted a probation sentence, then he or she must serve his or her incarceration in a state prison (as opposed to a local county jail), and that prison sentence may not be split or suspended. A split prison sentence is one that is served partially in custody and partially out of custody (on work release or house arrest) and a suspended prison sentence is a sentence that does not need to be served at all unless the defendant violates the terms of his or her probation.

Three Strikes Law: Dissuading or preventing a witness from testifying is considered a strike offense under California's Three Strikes Law.  PC 136.1(a) is considered a serious and a violent offense in California.

CIMT: PC 136.1(a) is considered a crime involving  moral turpitude, which may have a negative impact on the defendant's immigration status or professional licensing status (Dentist, therapist, nurses, teachers, lawyers, etc.).

In addition to any possible jail time, if found guilty of dissuading or preventing a witness from testifying under PC 136.1(a), the defendant may suffer other penalties, including, but not limited to, civil lawsuits, fines, loss of the right to own or possess a firearm, probation or parole terms, restraining orders, and more.


PC 136.1(a) Defense

Common defenses to PC 136.1(a), include: statute of limitations, insufficient evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, mistake of fact, insanity, and more.

Note: It is not a defense for the defendant to prove that the witness was not actually intimidated, prevented, or dissuaded, from testifying. The crime is complete upon proof that there was at least an attempt to dissuade or prevent a witness from testifying.

If you are charged with dissuading or preventing a witness from testifying (aka intimidating a witness) under California penal code sections 136.1(a) or 137, contact our criminal defense attorneys without delay. We offer free consultations and we are available 7 days a week to answer all of your questions. Call today!


Related Crimes

  • PC 136.1(b)(1) Prevent victim from making report

  • PC 136.1(c) Dissuade witness or victim

  • PC 136.1(c)(1) Prevent witness by force or threat

  • PC 136.1(c)(2) Conspire to dissuade witness

  • PC 136.1(c)(3) Dissuade witness with prior

  • PC 136.1(c)(4) Dissuade witness for financial gain

  • PC 137(a) Induce false testimony by bribing

  • PC 137(b) Induce false testimony by force or threat

  • PC 137(c) Induce false testimony

  • PC 138 Bribing witness/victim not to attend trial

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