In police investigations and subsequent prosecutions, witness testimony can be valued as “critical evidence.” Since a witness’s testimony can be vital to a case or the “proverbial nail in the coffin,” it’s not unusual for criminal defendants to bully, harass, or threaten witnesses in hopes of scaring them away from talking to the police or giving their testimony on the stand.
When a defendant threatens or harasses a witness, he or she commits an offense under Section 914.22 of the Florida Statutes, Tampering with or harassing a witness, victim, or informant. Under Sec. 914.22, a person commits the offense when he or she knowingly threatens another person, or uses intimidation or physical force, or offers the other personal financial gain with the intention of causing the other person to:
- Withhold their testimony from an investigation or proceeding,
- Withhold a document, record, or other objects from an investigation or proceeding,
- Alter, destroy, or conceal an object with the intention of destroying the object’s availability or use in an investigation or proceeding,
- Avoid the legal process, which summoned the person as a witness, or asked them to produce a record or document,
- Not show up for an official proceeding, which the person was summoned to appear.
- Prevent or delay the person from communicating information to the police or a judge about the commission of a crime, or a violation of probation or parole, and
- Convince the witness to lie in a police investigation or a proceeding.
Under Florida law, the offense of tampering with a witness, victim, or informant is a third-degree felony, punishable by a fine up to $5,000, or by up to 5 years in prison, or by a fine and imprisonment.
As you can see, Sec. 914.22 is expansive and can relate to many different situations. For example, suppose a young man witnessed two friends rob a man at gunpoint, and then beat him. After the crime concluded, the two robbers approached their friend and left him with a warning, “If you tell the police, we’ll hurt your little brother and your mom.”
Scared for his family’s safety, he didn’t go to the police at first, but after much thought, he changed his mind. In this case, his two friends can be charged with an additional offense under Sec. 914.22 because they tried to prevent the witness from reporting the crime.
If you’re facing criminal charges under Sec. 914.22, or for any other offense, contact my Miami criminal defense firm today for a free consultation!