Intimidation of a Witness
A conviction for intimidation of a witness has serious consequences, including the possibility of a prison sentence.Elements of Intimidation of a Witness
In order to convict a defendant of intimidation of a witness, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- The defendant made an effort to impede, influence, delay, obstruct, or otherwise interfere with an individual;
- The defendant used intimidation, express or implied threats of force, actual force, misrepresentation, a gift, an offer of something valuable, or a promise to provide something valuable;
- The individual was a witness in any stage of a grand jury, a trial, or a criminal proceeding, or the individual was giving information to a criminal investigator involving a crime in Massachusetts; and
- The defendant intended to impede, influence, delay, obstruct, or otherwise interfere with the individual as a witness or potential witness.
A recent movement, called “STOP SNITCHING” has invaded many inner-city communities. Police departments and prosecutors have taken notice, and have begun aggressively charging and prosecuting this crime. Intimidation of a witness is most often charged in two situations:
Lying to the Police
(1) an anticipated witness at an upcoming trial is approached by the defendant or the defendant’s acquaintance and asked not to testify; and
(2) during a domestic argument, the defendant takes away the alleged victim’s phone, preventing the alleged victim from calling the police.
If the police are investigating you for committing a crime and you deny that you are guilty, you could be charged with intimidation of a witness. Recent cases have considered whether a denial to the police can be prosecuted under this statute. It continues to be a murky area of the law, but as always, nobody who is the target of a criminal investigation should talk to the police without first consulting with a criminal defense attorney.Common Defense Strategies
Intimidation of witness cases can be defended in a variety of ways.
- Alleged Victim’s Criminal Record - If the alleged victim has a criminal record or a history of violence, Attorney Spring will attempt to present this information to the jury. Criminal convictions are generally admissible within a certain time frame (convictions for misdemeanors within the last five years are admissible; convictions for felonies within the last 10 years are admissible). History of violence evidence (also called “prior bad act” evidence) is generally admissible to impeach the alleged victim. Attorney Spring has extensive experience litigating these types of issues.
- Bias - In most intimidation of a witness cases that go to trial, there is bad blood between the defendant and the alleged victim. The alleged victim ordinarily wants to see the defendant convicted and punished. The alleged victim’s desire for revenge will be fully exposed on cross-examination.
- Lack of Intent - The Commonwealth is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant specifically intended to interfere with a witness. Failure to prove the defendant’s specific intent will result in a not guilty verdict.
Given the serious consequences that result from an intimidation of a witness conviction, it is essential that you have an attorney who is experienced in trying these types of cases. Attorney Spring prosecuted these cases when he served as an assistant district attorney, and he has successfully defended these cases since founding Spring & Spring.