Examples include: Some states’ statutes criminalize intentionally influencing a witness by any means.Others require a use of force, threat of force, or use of intimidation or coercion.A prosecutor can file charges based on the witness’s statements alone, but some kind of corroborating evidence is necessary to get a conviction.Of course, if the witness made a recording of a conversation in which witness tampering took place or something in writing supports the allegation, it is likely the accused will be convicted.But what if a witness in a case is a party’s spouse, close relative, friend or co-worker?Criminal cases usually take several months to complete, if not years, and it simply is not realistic for people in close personal relationships not to have contact for such a long period.In criminal cases, defendants often are ordered not to have contact with any witnesses while the case is pending.Even if the court does not forbid contact, this is a best practice because contact can lead to accusations of witness tampering, whether or not tampering actually occurred.
The idea of witness tampering or intimidation probably brings to mind a defendant in a criminal case threatening a witness, but the defendant is not the only person who can be accused of or commit this crime.
Lawyers often tell their clients not to talk about a case with anyone, but this also is not realistic if two people live together or were present at the same event and are involved in trial preparation together.
Even if a witness denies being influenced by the defendant, another person or the prosecutor can accuse the defendant of improper influence.
If a relationship with a witness is more distant, such as a co-worker relationship, the defendant can make it a practice to talk with the other person only about matters pertaining to work.
The defendant can even explain this to the other person that there will be no discussion about the case and certainly no attempt to influence the other person’s testimony.