Tampering with a Witness and Intimidating a Witness: Two Distinct Crimes in New York State

Tampering with a Witness (New York Penal Law Sections 215.10, 215.11, 215.12 and 215.13) and Intimidating a Victim or a Witness (New York Penal Law Sections 215.15, 215.16 and 215.17) are distinct crimes that often confuse defendants, defense attorneys and prosecutors throughout the New York area from Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx to the cities of White Plains, Yonkers and New Rochelle in Westchester County. An experienced defense attorney can help explain the differences in the two statutes, listen to your concerns and questions, and formulate a plan to develop the best possible defense for you.

A person is guilty of Tampering with a Witness when, knowing that a person is or is about to be called as a witness in an action or proceeding, he wrongfully induces or attempts to induce that person from absenting himself from or avoid testifying at the proceeding (such as a trial). In the alternative, that person knowingly makes a false statement or deceives with the intent to affect the other individual’s testimony. The different levels of severity of this crime (an “A” misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail to a “B” felony punishable by up to 25 years state prison) are distinguished in part by whether there are threats of physical injury or actual physical or serious physical injury.

Intimidating a Victim or a Witness, on the other hand, occurs when a person, knowing that another individual possesses information relating to a criminal transaction and, other than in the course of the criminal transaction, wrongfully compels or attempts to compel the other individual from communicating that information to the police, a grand jury, prosecutor or court by instilling a fear of physical injury or actually damaging property of that person. The different levels of the severity of this crime (an “E” Felony punishable by up to four years in state prison to a “B” felony punishable by up to 25 years in state prison) are distinguished in part by whether there are threats of physical injury or actual physical or serious physical injury.

A review of these two similar, but distinct, statutes makes it clear that Tampering with a Witness relates to testifying or being a witness in a proceeding such as a grand jury presentation, hearing, or trial while Intimidating a Victim or a Witness deals with preventing an individual from sharing information with law enforcement.

It is important to understand the differences between the statutes in order to develop a concise and tailor made defense set for your needs. Jeremy Saland, a former prosecutor under Robert Morgenthau in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, is available to explain the process, the charges, and to answer your questions for these and any other criminal charges you or your family may face.

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