Posted on July 15, 2015

California Penal Code § 140: Threatening Witness, Victim, or Informants

Threatening a witness, victim, or informant in a criminal case is a wobbler offense which means the prosecutor may elect to file charges as either a felony or misdemeanor. When making that determination, factors the prosecutor will consider are: the defendant’s prior criminal history, the severity of the circumstances of the case, and whether or not a weapon was involved. Prosecutors and law enforcement treat cases concerning potential witness / informants / or victims extremely seriously. The reason is because they want to ensure that individuals can come forward and assist the police without fear or repercussions from the person they’re testifying against. Additionally, if you are arrested for this offense, usually additional charges follow, such as criminal threats, assault, and dissuading a witness from testifying – all very serious accusations. Furthermore, law enforcement usually makes attempt to contact you in an effort that you make incriminating statements to build a case against you. In the event you are contact by police or a detective, make no statement and demand the presence of an attorney prior to answering any questions. If you are being investigated for making threats to a witness, victim, or informant, it is imperative that you contact a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney right away. Early intervention by an attorney may mean the difference of a misdemeanor versus a felony, or community service versus a state prison sentence.

In California, threatening a witness, victim, or informant is governed under Penal Code § 140 which states, “Every person who willfully uses force or threatens to use force or violence upon the person of a witness to, or a victim of, a crime or any other person, or to take, damage, or destroy any property of any witness, victim, or any other person, because the witness, victim, or other person has provided any assistance or information to a law enforcement officer, or to a public prosecutor in a criminal proceeding or juvenile court proceeding is guilty under this statute.”

Legal Defenses

• The individual threatened is not a witness, victim, or informant in a case

• The person accusing you is fabricating or exaggerating the circumstances

• You did not act with the specific intent to convey a threat but instead it was an accident

• The alleged victim, witnesses, or informant is part of a civil action and in a criminal proceeding

• You did not willfully use force against the other person

Penalties

If convicted of P.C. § 140, punishment depends on whether the conviction was for a felony or misdemeanor. If convicted of a misdemeanor, one faces up to one year of incarceration in the county jail. However, if one is convicted of a felony, they face a sentencing range of 2, 3, or 4 years in California state prison. Due to P.C. § 1170(h), those sentenced to state prison for this offense would actually serve their time in the county jail. In addition to time in custody, normally probation / parole follows with court fines and fees, plus counseling classes. Furthermore, the court will issue a protective order against you, order restitution if any damages occurred, and you may lose your firearm rights indefinitely.

Reduction to Misdemeanor

As mentioned above, P.C. § 140 is a wobbler offense which means if you are convicted under this statute as to a felony, you may be eligible to reduce your felony conviction to a misdemeanor pursuant to California Penal Code § 17(b). Upon successful reduction, you will no longer be convicted of a felony and from that moment forward, your conviction is a misdemeanor “for all purposes.” Reduction to a misdemeanor under P.C. § 17(b) restores all your rights, includes firearm ownership. However, there are certain limitations, for instance, you must have not served time in California state prison. For more information, contact the Law Offices of John D. Rogers for a free consultation concerning your eligibility.

Expungement

Threatening a witness, informant, or victim is eligible for expungement governed under Penal Code § 1203.4 if certain conditions are met. For instance, you must have completed probation, paid all outstanding fines, not be on probation, serve time on state prison for the offense, and not have any pending cases against you. In the event the expungement motion is granted, the court withdraws it’s finding of guilt, and dismisses the case pursuant to P.C. § 1203.4. From that moment forwarded you will be “released from all liabilities and penalties” and the state of California will no longer recognize you to be convicted of a crime. For more information, contact the Law Offices of John D. Rogers to discuss your eligibility.

Example

Dan was driving on a Los Angeles freeway when he was pulled over by a police officer for speeding. Dan was subsequently arrested for driving under the influence when a breathalyzer yielded a result of .12% alcohol level. Dan hired a criminal defense attorney and was in the middle of a court battle for months. When Dan’s attorney informed him that the case was set for trial, Dan got upset and called the police officer on the telephone. Because the police officer arrested Dan, he was going to be called as a witness by the prosecutor. Dan then told the police officer, “You better not testify against me! I mean it!” Dan quickly hung up the phone. The next day a detective visited Dan to get a statement about what happened over the phone. Dan admitted that he called the police officer only because he was upset over the whole thing. The detective arrested Dan for a violation of P.C. § 140. In this case, Dan’s defense attorney would argue that Dan is not guilty of threatening the police officer not to testify because he conveyed no threat. Moreover, Dan did not convey anything that would suggest he would commit serious harm or death against the police officer but merely stated “you better not.” Therefore, Dan is not guilty of threatening a witness from testifying.

Related Offenses

P.C. § 422(a): Criminal Threats
Assault & Battery
• Dissuading a Witness

Contact Us for a Free Consultation

If you have been arrested or are under investigation for threatening a witnesses, informant, or victim, then contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney John Rogers the Law Offices of John D. Rogers immediately. Call 877-888-9820 for a free confidential consultation concerning your rights and defenses.

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