Preventing Witness Testimony In New York City

by ECL Writer
What Is A Criminal Complaint?

The ability to call witnesses and present their testimony is a fundamental aspect of the American justice system. However, there are certain situations where the testimony of a witness may not be desirable or even allowed. In New York City, there are several ways that witness testimony can be prevented, either through legal means or by intimidating the witness. This can have a significant impact on the outcome of a case, and can also affect the safety of witnesses and their families. In this article, will explore the various methods used to prevent witness testimony in New York City, as well as the potential consequences of doing so.

Tempering With A Withness: New York Penal Law §§ 215.10-13.

In order to ensure that a hearing or trial results in a just outcome, the criminal justice system is founded on the assumption that people who have been wronged or who have witnessed or heard other people being victimized will swear an oath to give an honest accounting and tell either a judge or jury exactly what they know. Without eyewitness accounts, there is frequently little to no proof that a crime has ever been committed. The legislature’s efforts to ensure that the court system has the best possible access to witness information by making it illegal to discourage or seek to discourage witnesses from coming forward and testifying should not come as a surprise.

In New York City, preventing witness testimony is treated seriously. When accusations are made that someone is attempting to thwart a fair trial in their courtroom, many judges take it very personally. As a result, judges regularly sentence defendants harshly if they are found guilty of any of the charge’s subsections, and prosecutors are aware that they will have judicial backing when negotiating punishing terms. A person can be charged with one of four different levels of witness tampering. The seriousness of the charges can range from a misdemeanor to a major crime depending on the seriousness of the actions taken to try to stop testimony from occurring or to act against someone who has already testified.

Tampering With A Witness In The Fourth Degree, PL § 215.10

The simplest definition of tampering with a witness is when someone, knowing that another person will be called as a witness, tries to persuade that person not to testify, makes a false statement about that person, or engages in fraud to influence that person’s testimony. The prosecution need not even establish that there was any threat of violence or concern over bodily harm as a result of the defendant’s behavior in order for the defendant to be found guilty of this offense. The prosecution just needs to show that the accused attempted to prevent someone from testifying or altering their testimony by taking some sort of action.

In New York City cases, it is common for someone to bribe a witness to leave the city or to alter their testimony so that the defendant benefits. Fourth-degree witness tampering is a class A misdemeanor that carries a maximum one-year prison sentence.

Tampering With A Witness In The Third Degree, PL § 215.11

A person can be found guilty under this paragraph, which is similar to Tampering with a Witness in the Fourth Degree if they try to get someone to skip a court hearing where they are expected to testify or they get someone else to give false testimony. The prosecution must provide proof that the defendant threatened the witness with harm in order to exercise this influence in order to charge tampering with a witness in the third degree.

Physical harm is defined by Criminal Law as a physical act that causes “serious pain.” Physical injury has been determined to exist when minor swelling and bruises reach a certain threshold for severe pain. What the courts may consider as physical injury is subject to restrictions. It is impossible for the prosecution to prove that a witness was threatened with a paper cut or stubbed toe and still prove the case. If a witness asserts that they were threatened with a punch, slap, or choke, it would be sufficient to charge tampering with a witness in the third degree because these actions have all been found to cause significant discomfort.

It should be emphasized that the statute makes no mention of whether the witness must have a “reasonable” fear of suffering physical harm as a result of their testimony. It simply states that the defendant must make the defendant fear that physical harm would result. A prosecutor can take advantage of this and argue to a court or jury that they just need to demonstrate the existence of the fear rather than whether it was reasonable or if the ordinary person would have been fearful in that circumstance.

Third-degree witness tampering is a class E felony that carries a maximum four-year jail sentence. How seriously the legislature and courts treat attempts to inappropriately influence or impede sworn witness testimony in New York City cases is demonstrated by the severity of the potential punishment for this offense. The mere threat to hit someone in the face if they testify could possibly lead to a conviction and a four-year prison term in upstate New York.

Tampering With A Witness In The Second Degree, PL § 215.12

At the very least, a person has committed Tampering with a Witness in the Second Degree whenever they go from making threats to actually hurting the witness. In order to be found guilty of this crime in New York City, the prosecution must demonstrate that the defendant purposefully injured another person’s body in order to prevent their testimony or as a result of their testimony. The most important part of this law to remember is that the physical harm must be directly tied to the witness’ testimony. The fact that the defendant and the witness do not get along and got into a bar fight the day before the witness is supposed to provide a witness in a matter that the defendant is interested in is not enough. The prosecution must adamantly present proof that the defendant intentionally tried to stop the witness from testifying, or that the witness was subjected to some form of retaliation because they both gave evidence. Second-degree witness tampering is a class D felony that carries a maximum seven-year prison sentence.

Tampering With A Witness In The First Degree, PL § 215.13

The wording used in Tampering with a Witness in the First Degree is identical to that used in the Second Degree with one exception. In order to be found guilty of an offense in the first degree, the defendant must have seriously injured someone physically. This threshold is substantially higher. Any substantial damage, disfigurement, or loss of body or organ function must accompany a serious physical injury. A broken arm won’t qualify as a serious bodily injury, but losing the use of an arm for a lengthy period of time will. Significant scarring in locations that are visible might also indicate severe bodily harm.

Similarly, the attempt to suppress witness testimony in a New York City case or the retaliation for prior testimony can both be the cause of the serious physical damage, but the connection must be made. The prosecution must present proof connecting the witness’ testimony to the alleged defendant’s activities that led to the injuries. First-degree witness tampering is a class B felony that carries a maximum 25-year jail sentence.

Mitigation For These Charges In New York City

It is much more challenging to resolve a person’s extra case favorably once they have been convicted of any offense carrying a criminal record. Prosecutors are inherently less likely to agree to a defendant’s demands when they are aware of their prior history. This attitude is further strengthened when the crime was tampering with a witness. Many prosecutors are able to empathize with and comprehend a person who has been found guilty of certain crimes.

While prosecutors would never agree that actions that end in criminal charges are appropriate, they may take mitigating circumstances into account when determining both this case and any other cases that may arise. Addiction can lead to drug offenses, and emotional outbursts can lead to attacks. Yet, a prosecution is very unlikely to accept any mitigation when the underlying criminal charge is tampering with a witness. Instead, they would argue that anyone who seeks to improperly influence court proceedings is unworthy of any special consideration. At this point, retaining a good lawyer is essential.

It’s crucial to avoid a Tampering with a Witness conviction in order to avoid having your name added to a criminal record and to prevent having future situations treated more harshly. Here is an illustration of a charge whose consequences are severe despite the fact that the underlying conduct that forms the offense may be relatively modest.

Discuss Charges Preventing Witness Testimony With A New York Lawyer

In conclusion, the charges that prevent witness testimony in legal proceedings are complex and require the expertise of a skilled attorney to navigate. As we have seen through our discussion with a New York lawyer, there are various factors that may come into play, such as witness intimidation, fear of reprisals, and even the use of plea bargaining tactics. It is essential to have an experienced attorney who understands the legal system and the laws governing witness testimony to ensure that witnesses can come forward without fear of retaliation.

Ultimately, the ability of witnesses to testify is critical to the pursuit of justice and the protection of individual rights. By addressing the charges that prevent witness testimony, we can create a legal system that is fair, just, and equitable for all. It is therefore crucial that we continue to advocate for policies and reforms that empower witnesses to come forward and testify without fear of retribution, and that we work towards creating a safer and more just society for everyone.

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