Witness tampering is one of the crimes against justice that hurts the integrity of the justice system. Witnesses are central to any trial. Judges and juries expect them to tell the truth, which is why they testify under oath. If jurors can’t trust witnesses, then the criminal justice system would grind to a halt.
Witness tampering is any attempt to alter a witness’s testimony. If you are accused of witness tampering, please contact George Law as soon as possible. Even lawyers sometimes run afoul of this statute for fulfilling their duties to their clients, and prosecutors often seek maximum penalties. You want to fully understand what defenses you can bring.
Defining Witness Tampering
Michigan prohibits any attempt to alter witness testimony. The relevant law prohibits the following:
- Offering or giving witnesses something as a bribe to discourage or influence them;
- Threatening or intimidating witnesses to discourage or influence them;
- Impeding, interfering, obstructing, or preventing witnesses from testifying; and
- Retaliating or threatening to retaliate against a witness.
Common examples include:
- Offering a witness money to change testimony;
- Threatening a witness to skip trial by making threats to harm family members;
- Abducting a witness to prevent testimony;
- Tearing up the subpoena so the witness doesn’t know the trial date; and
- Attacking a person who testified in court out of revenge.
It is not a requirement to actually succeed in preventing or altering testimony. The effort is enough.
What Penalties Am I Facing For Witness Tampering in Michigan?
If convicted, you are facing very serious penalties that can include prison time and fines. In most cases, witness tampering is a felony that can result in up to four years in prison and a maximum $5,000 fine. As a convicted felon, you can also lose critical civil rights in Michigan, such as the right to possess a gun.
However, there are situations where the penalties increase. For example, if you are accused of witness tampering in a criminal case that carries a prison term of 10+ years, you can face:
- Up to 10 years in prison; and
- Maximum $20,000 fine.
Likewise, penalties increase if you:
- Threatened to kill or a witness;
- Threatened to damage property; or
- Committed or attempted to commit a crime.
In these situations, you can face:
- Maximum of 15 years in prison; and
- Maximum $25,000 fine.
Even worse, any sentence for witness tampering can be served consecutively. Suppose you are convicted of committing assault to prevent someone from testifying at a trial. If so, your tampering sentence can be tacked on at the end of your assault sentence. This means you will be in prison for a long time.
Can You Defend Me Against Witness Tampering Charges?
Yes. We will need to know more about the circumstance surrounding your tampering allegations. Here are some common defenses that might apply:
The statute excludes some conduct from being defined as tampering. For example, you might have offered to pay a witness’ travel expenses to testify in your trial. The statute allows you to pay or reimburse a witness for reasonable costs. That’s not tampering in Michigan. In fact, it’s quite common in most civil cases.
Similarly, you might have encouraged a witness to testify truthfully. This encouragement is not tampering.
Lack Of Intent To Tamper
Any confrontation or threats might have nothing to do with the person testifying or providing information to the police. For example, if you get in a bar fight with someone who is scheduled to testify the next day, it is not tampering unless you were motivated to impede, influence, or prevent testimony. Intent is harder for police to prove than you might otherwise think.
Proper Legal Advice
Sometimes, a lawyer advises a person to testify or not. Under the Fifth Amendment, a person has the privilege not to testify against themselves or offer incriminating statements against their will. For this reason, it’s not witness tampering for an attorney to advise a client to avoid testifying.
The state needs solid evidence you committed tampering. Sometimes, memories conflict about what you said or did. What sounds like threats to one person might simply sound like anger to someone else. Similarly, going over someone’s memories might look like an attempt to influence how they testify. But it could also be a conversation to find out what a person intends to say in court.
Lack Of Jurisdiction
Your witness tampering needs some connection to Michigan for you to face criminal charges in our state. If there is no connection, then Michigan can’t prosecute you.
Our Michigan criminal defense attorney will examine all facts and look at your case from all sides. We only bring a defense if it is well supported by the facts.
Speak With An Experienced Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney
The legal team at George Law has combined decades of experience representing people in Michigan criminal courts. An accusation of witness tampering in Michigan is a serious charge that deserves an equally serious response. We understand that prosecutors sometimes bring these charges based on weak or conflicting evidence, and we can use our knowledge of the law to defend you.
To learn more about our services, call us at 248-278-7652 or contact us online. We offer free and confidential consultations to those in need of legal help.