The importance of honesty in a court trial is immeasurable. If someone is being dishonest -- be it the judge, the attorney, or even the justice system as whole -- then it makes the entire process invalid and justice won't be served. So, if you're called to speak before the judge and give your side of the story, you better swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Unfortunately, some people still choose to spit lies and misleading information in court. This occurs most commonly in cases where witnesses are involved in the investigation. A specific law, California Penal Code PC 137, explicitly states that it is unlawful to bribe, coerce, or influence a witness into giving a false testimony. More specifically, PC 137 concerns itself with:
- A witness to a crime;
- A potential witness to a crime; and;
- A person about to give substantial information to authorities about a crime.
Meanwhile, it is important to note that PC 137 recognizes three ways of corrupting a witness: bribery, force, and influence. See how PC 137 individually defines these three acts:
- Bribery is done when someone gives, offers, or promises to give anything of value in an attempt to persuade the witness to give false testimony, withhold true testimony, or give false material information to a law enforcer.
- Force means the unlawful use of violence. It could be an actual or threatened force. Most common forms would be blackmailing and physical abuse. In this case, a person influenced the witness to give false testimony, withhold true testimony, or give false material information to a law enforcer through means of force, threat of force, or fraud.
- Perhaps the least serious act among the three is the mere influence of a person to a witness to give false testimony. This does not necessarily involve any exchange of valued material nor use of violence. Rather, it could be done through simple requests, pleas, and demands.
For further understanding, have a look at the scenarios below:
- Two of the biggest sardine companies in the country have accused each other of sabotaging their production. Company A has just been informed that one of their ex-employees is standing as a witness against them. The CEO of the company then hired a team of experts to identify the said witness. When they did, the CEO instructed them to offer $1,000,000 to the person in hopes that he will agree to testify against Company B instead.
- A 21-year-old lady was walking home from her workplace one night when she suddenly heard a loud scream coming from her neighbor's home. She approached the area to see if anybody needed help. To her surprise, she saw someone laying on the floor covered in blood. She immediately dialed the police on her phone but was interrupted by a stranger who was pointing a gun at her. He threatened to shoot her and then find her family if she says anything to the police.
- You saw firsthand how your father verbally and physically abused your mother for how many years. Yesterday, your mother informed you that she will finally be filing a case against her husband and she wants you to be her witness. You said yes and kept it as a secret from your father. Eventually, your father found out after being informed by his lawyer. He then asked you to lie to the judge and that this is the least you could do for him since he raised you.
There are a few related offenses to California Penal Code PC 137, such as:
- Intimidating a witness or a victim;
- Threaten injury;
- Bribery of executive officials;
- Acceptance of bribery by a witness;
- Commercial bribery;
- False statement; and
- Paying a witness.
Penalties for Bribing a Witness to Give False Testimony
As mentioned before, PC 137 covers three main criminal acts that would influence a witness to give false testimony. Each of these crimes have their own corresponding penalties.
Bribing and coercing a witness to become dishonest in their testimony is a felony offense, although the severity of the penalties differ:
- Bribing a witness leads to 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in state prison; and
- The use of force against a witness is punishable by 2, 3, or 4 years in state prison.
On the other hand, inducing a witness is only a misdemeanor offense which carries the following penalties:
- 6 months in county jail; and/or
Call a Criminal Defense Lawyer Now
Knowing how serious and harsh the penalties are under PC 137, it is crucial to get yourself an aggressive criminal defense attorney. They will be able to give you the best options even if you feel like all odds are against your favor. Reach out to us now for an immediate consultation.
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