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Tampering with Witnesses or Jurors

Witness tampering is a serious offense, classified under the state’s crimes against the court. Intimidating, threatening, bribing, lying or harming witnesses in order to influence their testimony to the court is illegal as an aggravated misdemeanor. In addition to the added offense, the court is likely to turn against the person responsible for witness tampering, likely tanking the case entirely if found out while still at trial.

In the following article we’ll go over more examples of witness tampering and the penalties if caught.

Des Moines Witness Tampering Attorney

The state of Iowa takes all obstructions to justice seriously, and if you’ve been charged with witness tampering you can expect a much harder time winning your case in addition to substantial legal penalties.

Our dedicated team understands the complexities of the legal system in Iowa and is committed to securing your case. With a track record of success, personalized attention, and a deep understanding of the legal landscape, choosing McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. means choosing comprehensive and effective representation.

With our experience, skills, and resources our attorneys can effectively fight for you. Call (515) 279-9700 now to set up your first consultation for free.

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Witness Tampering Defined

Iowa State Code Section 720.4 defines witness tampering as attempting to alter, influence, intimidate, or obstruct the testimony of a witness at any stage of the legal process. This includes the following actions:

  1. Intimidation or Threatening: Using threats, intimidation, or coercion to influence a witness’s testimony, discourage them from testifying, or to persuade them to alter their testimony.
  2. Bribing: Offering, giving, or promising anything of value to a witness with the intent to influence their testimony.
  3. Physical Harm or Threat of Harm: Physically harming or threatening to harm a witness or someone close to the witness in an effort to influence their testimony.
  4. Misleading Conduct: Engaging in deceit or misleading conduct to influence a witness’s testimony or to prevent them from testifying.

To be charged with witness tampering in Iowa, there must be sufficient evidence to suggest that an individual knowingly engaged in one or more of these actions with the intent to influence, delay, or prevent the testimony of a witness in a legal proceeding.

In other words, the court must be able to prove that you intentionally attempted to shift the witness’s testimony at any point of the legal process; this includes court testimony and statements made to the police.

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Witness tampering charges are punishable by:

  1. Up to 2 years in prison; and/or
  2. Fine of $855 to $8,540

In addition to the above penalties, being charged with witness tampering is likely to make it more difficult to win an ongoing court case if you are found to have induced testimony from one witness or another.

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Possible Defenses

In nearly all cases, contacting a court witness is frowned upon and generally viewed with suspicion. However, there are legitimate times when contact may be necessary which may mistakenly be labeled as witness tampering. The following are some key arguments that your attorney may use.

  1. Lack of Intent: A key element in witness tampering charges is the intent to influence, intimidate, or otherwise interfere with a witness’s testimony. A defense might argue that the defendant’s actions were misconstrued and that there was no intent to tamper with the witness. This could involve demonstrating that any interaction with the witness was benign, lawful, or unrelated to the witness’s testimony.
  2. Insufficient Evidence: The defense may argue that the prosecution lacks sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant engaged in witness tampering. This might involve challenging the credibility of evidence or the reliability of witness testimonies that the prosecution uses to establish the defendant’s guilt.
  3. First Amendment Rights: While a delicate and rarely successful defense, in some contexts, the defense might argue that the defendant’s actions were protected under the First Amendment (free speech). However, this defense must carefully navigate the distinction between protected speech and unlawful conduct aimed at tampering with a witness.

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Additional Resources

Victim Witness Assistance – If you are the victim of witness tampering or know someone who is, then you should contact the Victim Witness Assistance Program of your local county. Polk County includes a webpage dedicated to victim assistance online with information on how to contact, what your rights are as a witness and other information.

Victim’s Rights – The National Crime Victim Law Institute published a guide to your rights as the victim of a crime in October 2021. The guide details reporting and record requests, as well as rights to counsel, employment and privacy. Read the guide to learn more about witness tampering and how to exercise your right to be heard.

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Hire a Des Moines Witness Tampering Attorney

Call us now at (515) 279-9700 to set up your first consultation for free.

We accept clients throughout the greater Polk County and Dallas County area including Ankeny, Altoona, Johnston, Polk City, Pleasant Hill, Adel, Waukee, Perry and De Soto.

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