When you face criminal charges in California, you may find yourself opting for risky and unconventional means to try and ensure your case outcome is in your favor. Sometimes you may ensure the evidence that the prosecution prepares against you plays a minor role during your trial. Some of the evidence against you may include documentation, witness testimonies, and records.
The prosecution could bring in witnesses to testify against you to collaborate on some facts in your case. Therefore, when these witnesses fail to make their statements, appear in court, or alter their testimonies in a manner that favors you, it could ensure the prosecution loses its persuasive edge.
However, witness bribery to prevent the prosecution from accessing witness testimonies or changing their testimonies is a severe offense in California that will attract harsh penalties. Facing bribery of witness charges may lead to imprisonment, among other harsh sentencing. Therefore, you must engage the services of a qualified and experienced criminal defense attorney to help you fight these charges.
At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, our legal team will provide top-notch legal representation, defense, and guidance to ensure you understand every step in your bribery of witness charges. We will walk with you, explain each step and prepare a defense strategy that ensures you obtain the best possible outcome in your case.
Understanding Bribery of Witness Charges Under California PC 137 and 138
It is a crime in California to accept bribery or to bribe a witness to influence their attendance or testimonies in court. Bribery of witnesses is a white-collar crime that garners severe sentencing upon a conviction.
In Los Angeles, the law defines a bribe as any incentive given to a witness to corrupt their testimony or to ensure they fail to appear in court for the trial.
You will face bribery of witness charges when:
- You accept bribes to avoid testifying in court.
- You agree to modify your testimony.
- You refuse to honor the court summons to testify.
- You refuse to cooperate with the prosecution or law enforcement agents.
- You refuse to testify during a court hearing.
You should note that for bribery charges to be held in court, you must accept the bribe in cash or anything valuable. However, you do not have to receive or accept a bribe for these charges to hold in court.
Examples of Bribery of Witness Charge
Lynne and Jose are neighbors, and their children are good friends. Lynne assaults her husband and fears that the police will question her neighbor. Therefore, she asks Jose to deny hearing anything, and in exchange, she will watch over his kids for the next month while he is at work. Lynne, in this case, can face bribery of witness charges.
Mark is facing DUI charges, and he knows the evidence against him is solid. He searches for the police officer who arrested him and offered to give him $1,000 if he could drop his testimony. When the arresting officer notifies the DAs office, Mark could face bribery of witness charges under penal code 137 on top of his DUI charges.
Elements For Bribery of Witnesses Charges in California
For your bribery charges, the law requires you to offer or accept a bribe and, in exchange, modify or alter the testimony to favor the person offering the bribe or fail to appear in court to testify.
Under the law, both the person offering the bribe and the one receiving the bribe can face bribery charges under penal codes 137 and 138, respectively.
Penal Code 137
California addresses bribery of a witness offense under penal code 137. You will face bribery charges when you bribe a witness to ensure they do not cooperate with law enforcement agents and to have them testify in your favor.
You will face bribery charges under California PC 137 when you offer to give a witness something they value in exchange for them to falsify, modifying, or fail to cooperate with law enforcement agents. The prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that you offered to give the witness something; you had corrupt intentions.
You will have a corrupt intent when you act in a manner that ensures you wrongfully take advantage or gain financially against another person. Under this law, you will face bribery charges when you threaten, force, or fraudulently persuade a witness to falsify, alter or fail to cooperate with law enforcement agencies.
Witness bribery, in most cases, involves the exchange of cash so that the witness fails to show up during the trial. Some of the things you could exchange with the witness for bribery to be complete include and are not limited to the following:
For example, Duncan and Mitch are neighbors, one day, Duncan witnessed Mitch severely assaulting another man. Realizing that Duncan witnessed his actions, Mitch offers to bribe him so that he can falsify his testimony and say that Mitch acted in self-defense. Mitch could face bribery charges for attempting to sway Duncan's testimony unlawfully.
Penal Code 138
For these charges to be held in court, the prosecution must prove to the court that:
- The witness received a bribe.
- The court summoned you as a witness.
- You offered to receive a bribe.
- You knew the bribe would influence your testimony to ensure they failed to testify in court.
For example, if you are in a position to influence the witness's career and promise to promote them, something they value if they fail to appear in court and testify against you. In this instance, your bribe violates penal code 138 and not 137, as it does not affect the witness testimony or communications with the prosecution.
How Does The Prosecution Prove Bribery Charges?
In most cases, the prosecution will show the court records of the transactions, especially if it involves money. They can show the court how money left your custody and how the witness received it. There are situations where they will have to prove their bribery charges even if the witness has not received the money; all the prosecution needs is to show the court that it would take the witness some time to access the funds.
The prosecution will have an easy time if there is surveillance footage of you bribing the witness. If there is doubt about the surveillance video, the prosecution may need to show that there was no need for you or your agents to meet up with the witness where you bribed them.
By Showing The Court That You Had Corrupt Intent
The prosecution can show the court that the evidence against you was strong, which is why you decided to bribe the witness. All the prosecution has to prove is that your intention to bribe the witness would alter or falsify their testimony in your favor. For this, the prosecution must show the court that you knew all the relevant facts surrounding your case, making it easier to know who to bribe to obtain a favorable outcome.
The prosecution will produce the documents showing you knew all the facts surrounding your case, making it easy to choose who to bribe. They can do this by looking over and analyzing the instructions you gave the witness.
In some circumstances, especially if the witness you bribed confesses, they will include all the instructions you gave them. They will include the information you wanted them to modify, falsify or omit in their testimony.
You Prevented The Witness From Appearing For Court Sessions
The prosecution can prove to the court that you purposely wanted to ensure that the witness does not appear and testify against you, which is why you bribed them. Also, they could show the court that you bribed the witness to arrive in court later after the session to ensure that the prosecution fails to utilize their testimony.
The prosecution can show the court that your criminal intent was to ensure the witness misses their court appearance by coming in late or does not show up at all.
They will do so by going through your previous transactions with the witness, and they aim to show the court that you had corrupt intent to prevent the witness from appearing punctually for the court session. To achieve this, the prosecution could request the court to authorize it to scrutinize your communications like call logs, emails, and text messages. Additionally, the prosecution could rely on surveillance footage proving they had contact with the witness.
For example, Duke is facing drug possession and trafficking charges. He visits Bob, his next-door neighbor, who he knows is a key witness in his case. Duke promises to give Bob 30% of his profits if Bob leaves town for the duration of the trial. Duke could face bribery of witness charges on top of his drug possession and trafficking charges.
The Witness Offered To Receive a Bribe You Accepted
Sometimes, a witness may approach you and request you bribe them to ensure they alter, falsify or fail to show up at the court during the trial. The prosecution must prove that despite the witness offering, you did not refuse but continued and offered the bribe.
For example, Nate witnesses a robbery plan at his place of work, and the conspirators are some of his colleagues. He approaches them and informs them that he intends to testify against them unless they come to an understanding. He accepts a car from them and promises to give a favorable testimony in court.
Legal Defense Strategies To Use Against Bribery of Witness
When facing bribery charges, you can use some defense strategies to challenge the charges. Some of the defenses you could use include and are not limited to the following:
There Was No Witness
For bribery charges to apply, the prosecution must prove that the person you bribed was a witness against you or was about to be summoned to testify in your trial. Therefore you can use this defense by proving to the court that you did not offer a bribe to such a person.
Your Intention Was Not To Corrupt
One of the elements of penal code 137 is that your actions were led by corrupt intent. Your defense team could show the court that you had no corrupt intent.
For example, if you offer to buy lunch for the witness, the witness may interpret it as an offer of bribery so that they can give a favorable testimony in your friend's trial. However, you may have invited the witness to lunch simply because you were hungry and assumed they were also hungry. If due to your relationship with the defendant, the witness believes you were trying to bribe them, then you should prove to the court that your actions lacked a corrupt intent.
Law Enforcement Agents Entrapped You
You show the court that your actions resulted from entrapment by law enforcement agents. You should prove to the court that peace officers lured you into committing the offense.
You Were Under The Influence of Alcohol
Sometimes, due to the pressure accompanying a trial, you might decide to distress yourself by drinking alcohol. If you are intoxicated, you decide to bribe the witness to solve your court issues. This might seem like a good idea, especially when you are drunk. However, in the light of day, you will realize the kind of blunder you have made. Your lawyers can argue that the court should dismiss bribery charges since you were under the influence of alcohol and could not be relied upon to make rational decisions when you committed the act.
While using intoxication as a defense, you will need to prove legally that you were under the influence of alcohol at the time you committed the offense. By doing this, you will eliminate the element of corrupt intent from your actions.
The prosecution will dismiss bribery charges since your intoxication was too high, making rational thought impossible. However, the prosecution will require you to prove that you were intoxicated. Your defense team could show the court the amount of alcohol you consumed and use medical records to show that you have low alcohol to replant levels.
Law Enforcement Agents Force or Coerced You
Sometimes, you may bribe a witness due to third-party involvement. Someone could force you to bribe a witness as they know the legal repercussions of the act. Therefore if you bribe a witness due to threats, force, coercion, or violence, you can use this defense and have the court dismiss your charges. However, for this defense strategy to be held in court, you must name the person responsible for your actions.
Penalties for Bribing a witness
Bribing a witness is a felony offense in California. A conviction could result in the following:
- From two to four years of state prison imprisonment.
- Formal probation.
- Deportation for non-citizens.
- The court could impose hefty fines on you.
- Lose of second amendment gun rights.
Can Bribery Conviction Records Be Expunged in California?
If your bribery conviction results in formal rotation, you can file for expungement after the completion of your probation. However, if the court sentences you to imprisonment, you can not file for records expungements.
Bribery of Public Employees or Executive Officers–PC 67 & 68
Under this section, California prohibits bribing an executive or public officer. You will face these charges if you bribe public or executive officers in exchange for their official services. The officer and the person offering the bribe can face charges under penal codes 67 & 68.
For these charges to be held in court, the prosecution must prove the following elements:
- You offered to give the public or executive officer something valuable. In this case, it can be cash, or expensive gifts, among others.
- You acted with corrupt intent.
- Your act affects the public or executive officer's decision.
- The public or executive officer requested, agreed to, or received a bribe.
Regarding these charges, the public or executive officer does not necessarily have to receive and accept the bribe for the charges to be held in court. Additionally, these officers do not have to perform the action you were bribing them for the charges to be held in court. For these charges, the officer must have the authority to perform certain services.
For example, if you approach an arresting officer with a bribe to let you go, you could face bribery of an executive officer, while approaching the same officer after your conviction with a bribe to have them overturn your sentencing will not amount to bribery of an executive officer since the arresting officer does not have the power and authority to overturn a conviction.
Bribery offenses are Felony level offenses and can be punished by up to four years in state prison and substantial fines.
Bribing Legislators – PC 85 & 86
Under California PC 85, the law prohibits bribing or using corrupt means to influence the legislator's decisions. Bribing a legislator is a felony offense with a conviction resulting in the following:
- Two to four years imprisonment in county jail.
- Formal probation
Bribing Judicial Officers –PC 92 & 93
Penal code 92 defines bribing a judge as giving or offering to bribe a judicial officer, arbitrator, juror, umpire, referee, or authorized person to determine a controversy with corrupt intent to influence them.
On the other hand, penal code 93 makes it a crime for a judicial officer, umpire, referee, or any authorized person to determine controversy, request, receive, or accept a bribe to influence their decision, opinion or vote.
Both PC 92 & 93 are felony offenses, and a conviction could result in:
- Two to four years imprisonment in state prison.
- Restitution fine that is at most $ 10,000 in circumstances where the judicial officer has not received the bribe.
Commercial Bribery – PC 641.3
Commercial bribery is a wobbler offense in California. The prosecution could charge you with a misdemeanor or felony offense, depending on your criminal history and the circumstances surrounding your case.
This law aims to punish someone who breaches their duty to their employers. Also, you can face these charges if you decide to undermine your employer's interest for some personal gain or bribe.
For this charge to be held in court, money does not have to exchange hands necessarily. Sometimes you could face these charges due to gestures like a nod indicating that both parties will handle things later. All the prosecution has to prove is that your actions had corrupt intent.
Commercial bribery is a wobbler offense with the prosecution charging you for a misdemeanor or felony. You will face a misdemeanor charge when the value of money involved is less than $1,000. A misdemeanor conviction will result in a one-year imprisonment in county jail. However, if the prosecutor files charges against you for an amount exceeding $ 1,000, then you will face felony charges. A felony conviction will result in county jail or state prison imprisonment that ranges from 16 months and goes up to 3 years.
Extortion –PC 518
Extortion is obtaining money, property, or something valuable from another person without their consent. An Example of extortion is when a criminal gang demands protection money from business owners and threatens their families if they fail to part with the money.
Extortion is a felony offense in California with a conviction resulting in a one-year county jail or state prison imprisonment and hefty fines.
Contact A Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me
Bribery charges have long-lasting negative effects on your life. They will make it impossible to run for public office and tarnish your name. Apart from these, the stress accompanying a trial will strain your family and finances. Once the law enforcement agents arrest you, you should consult a reputable law firm. Always remain silent, as anything you say might be used against you later during your trial.
Our legal team is qualified at Los Angeles Criminal Attorney to handle any bribery charges cases. We will review your case, advise you accordingly, and develop a defense strategy that will guarantee the best possible outcome in your case. If you have any questions or want to consult with a criminal defense attorney, do not hesitate to call us now at 424-333-0943, and we will gladly offer our assistance.