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Frequently Asked Questions About Witness Tampering

 

Q: What is the Statute that governs Witness Tampering?

A: RCW 9A.72.120.

 

Q: What is Witness Tampering?

A: RCW 9A.72.120 Tampering with a witness:
(1) A person is guilty of tampering with a witness if he or she attempts to induce a witness or person he or she has reason to believe is about to be called as a witness in any official proceeding or a person whom he or she has reason to believe may have information relevant to a criminal investigation or the abuse or neglect of a minor child to:

 (a) Testify falsely or, without right or privilege to do so, to withhold any testimony; or

 (b) Absent himself or herself from such proceedings; or

 (c) Withhold from a law enforcement agency information which he or she has relevant to a criminal investigation or the abuse or neglect of a minor child to the agency.

 (2) Tampering with a witness is a class C felony.

 (3) For purposes of this section, each instance of an attempt to tamper with a witness constitutes a separate offense.

 

Q: What is the definition of Witness Tampering?

A: A person commits the crime of intimidating a witness when he or she [directs a threat to a former witness because of the witness's role in any official proceeding][or] [by use of a threat against a current or prospective witness attempts to [influence the testimony of that person][or][induce that person to elude legal process summoning him or her to testify][or][induce that person to absent himself or herself from an official proceeding][or][induce that person not to report the information relevant to a criminal investigation or the abuse or neglect of a minor child][or][induce that person not to have the crime or the abuse or neglect of a minor child prosecuted][or][induce that person not to give truthful or complete information relevant to a criminal investigation or the abuse or neglect of a minor child]]. WPIC 115.50.

 

Q: What are the elements of tampering with a witness?

A: To convict the defendant of the crime of tampering with a witness, each of the following elements of the crime must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. That on or about __________, the defendant attempted to induce a person to [testify falsely][or][, without right or privilege to do so,][withhold any testimony][or][absent himself or herself from any official proceeding][or] [withhold from a law enforcement agency information which he or she had relevant to [a criminal investigation][or][the abuse or neglect of a minor child]]; and
  2. That the other person was [a witness][or][a person the defendant had reason to believe was about to be called as a witness in any official proceedings][or] [a person whom the defendant had reason to believe might have information relevant to [a criminal investigation][or][the abuse or neglect of a minor child]]; and
  3. That any of these acts occurred in the State of Washington.

If you find from the evidence that each of these elements has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt, then it will be your duty to return a verdict of guilty.

On the other hand, if, after weighing all of the evidence, you have a reasonable doubt as to any one of these elements, then it will be your duty to return a verdict of not guilty. WPIC 115.81.

 

Q: Can it be witness tampering if the threat is not actually communicated to the alleged victim?

A: Yes. A person violated RCW 9A.72.120 even though threat was not communicated to the victim. State v. Williamson, 131 Wn. App. 1, 86 P.3d 1221 (2004).

 

Q: If the witness has not been subpoenaed by the prosecution, than I can not be guilty of witness tampering?

A: It is immaterial whether or not witness has been subpoenaed, in prosecution for tampering of witness. State v. Bringgold, 40 Wash. 12, 82 P. 132, overruled on other points, State v. Hamshaw, 61 Wash. 390, 112 P. 379 (1910).

 

Q: Can prior witness tampering charges be used to impeach at trial?

A: Witness tampering is a crime involving dishonesty so that evidence that witness has a prior conviction for witness tampering is automatically admissible for purposes of impeachment. State v. Bankston, 99 Wn. App. 266, 992 P.2d 1041 (2000).

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