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Witness Intimidation

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California Witness Intimidation Attorney


Any person who knowingly and maliciously prevents or dissuades a victim or witness from attending court or giving testimony is guilty of witness intimidation, has violated Penal Code section 136.1(a)(1). Any person who knowingly and maliciously attempts to prevent or dissuade a victim or witness from attending court or giving testimony has also violated Penal Code section 136.1(a)(2). Any person who attempts to prevent or dissuade a witness or victim from making a police report, seeking someone’s arrest or filing a complaint, is guilty of violating Penal Code section 136.1(b). Penal Code sections 136.1(a) & 136.1(b) are wobblers, but if the crime is charged as a felony, it is considered a strike under California’s Three Strikes Law. If the violation of Penal Code section 136.1 is carried out with a threat or force, or if done because the defendant was hired to do it for someone else, or if the defendant has a prior conviction for this offense already, then the crime becomes a straight felony with a maximum punishment of four years state prison, pursuant to Penal Code section 136.1(c).


The District Attorney’s office has to show each of the following elements, beyond a reasonable doubt, in order to prove the crime of witness intimidation:

  • The defendant maliciously prevented or discouraged (or tried to prevent or discourage) a person from attending or giving testimony; OR
  • The defendant maliciously prevented or discouraged (or tried to prevent or discourage) a person from making a report where that person or someone else was the victim of a crime; OR
  • The defendant maliciously prevented or discouraged (or tried to prevent or discourage) a person from cooperating or providing information so that a complaint / indictment / information / probation violation / parole violation could be sought and prosecuted, and from helping to prosecute that action; OR
  • The defendant maliciously prevented or discouraged (or tried to prevent or discourage) a person from arresting or causing or seeking the arrest of someone in connection with a crime; AND
  • That person was a victim or a witness to a crime; AND
  • The defendant knew they were preventing or discouraging (or trying to prevent or discourage) this person from doing (whatever is described in element #1) and intended to do so.

A person acts maliciously when they unlawfully intend to annoy, harm or injure someone else in any way, or intends to interfere in any way with the orderly administration of justice.

A witness means someone who knows about facts relating to a crime or who has reported a crime or who has been served with a subpoena. A witness also includes a person whom the defendant reasonably believes to fall into these categories as well, even if the person isn’t actually a witness.

It is not a defense if the defendant was unsuccessful in preventing or discouraging the victim or witness. And it is not a defense is no one was actually physically injured or otherwise intimidated.

Other Consequences

Not only can a witness intimidation conviction lead to criminal penalties, but it can also have drastic employment, licensing and immigration consequences. Witness intimidation is considered a crime of moral turpitude under California state law. Having a witness intimidation conviction can prevent a person from finding a job or result in a person being fired from their current job. Furthermore, the state boards of many professions that require licensing, such as doctors, nurses, lawyers, contractors, teachers, real estate agents and stock brokers, all require background checks. A professional who has a witness intimidation charge on their record risks losing their professional license, or never acquiring it in the first place. Perhaps the most severe impact of a witness intimidation conviction involves immigration consequences. Under certain circumstances, non-citizens who are permanent residents (green card holders) or temporary visitors, with a visa, can be denied admission or naturalization, or even be deported, with a witness intimidation conviction on their record.

What Not to Do

It is possible to create an immigration-safe deal with a conviction for witness intimidation, but the way the deal is structured is incredibly important. Many attorneys do not understand what makes a deal immigration safe and hiring the wrong lawyer will lead to the wrong results.

The Right Lawyer

Choosing the right criminal defense law firm will be the most important decision someone can make when facing witness intimidation charges. Many people who face witness intimidation charges are good people who made a mistake or exercised poor judgment. There are also some people who have been wrongfully accused of criminal threats, based on a misunderstanding or false evidence. You need an attorney that will listen to your side of the story carefully, who will evaluate the evidence thoroughly, who will negotiate with the judge and the District Attorney’s office skillfully, and who will fight in trial aggressively. You need an attorney from the Law Offices of Fred Thiagarajah.

As a former Deputy District Attorney, Fred Thiagarajah, and his team have the negotiating skills and trial experience necessary to get the best results for his clients. Fred Thiagarajah has actually gone to trial on these types of cases as a prosectuor and as a defense attorney — and he and his team have won on whichever side they were on. For an example of his work, please see his case results. With offices in Newport Beach, Long Beach, Murrieta, Riverside and Rancho Cucamonga, the Law Offices of Fred Thiagarajah have criminal defense experience in Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernadino counties.

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