Bribery of witnesses under California Penal Code § 137 pc entails the offense of giving a witness a bribe in connection with his/her testimony pertaining to a crime in a legal proceeding.
It also involves the giving of a bribe to a witness in connection with his/her providing material information in connection to a crime to a law enforcement official.
Penal Code §138(a), addresses bribes offered/given to witnesses pertaining to their attendance at trial or other legal proceeding.
Penal Code §138(b), addresses bribes taken by witnesses pertaining to their attendance at trial or other legal proceeding.
How Does The Prosecutor Prove The Offense Of Bribery Of Witnesses Under Penal Code 137?
To prove that you are guilty of this offense, the prosecutor has to prove the following facts or elements1:
- You gave or offered2 a bribe3 to a witness4 or a person about to give5 material information6 to a law enforcement official7) about a crime;8 AND
- You acted with corrupt9 intent10 to persuade the witness or person to agree that the bribe will unlawfully influence the testimony or information that they would give.
Here are two examples.
Wayne, Dan’s next-door neighbor witnessed Dan severely beating the mailman.
Before the police arrived to arrest Wayne, Dan offered Wayne whatever amount of money that would persuade him to testify at trial that the mailman assaulted Dan first and that Dan was just defending himself.
Dan could be charged with bribing a witness in this situation because he tried to unlawfully influence Wayne’s witness testimony.
She goes over to see her neighbor, who she knows has been called as a key witness in her trial and promises to give him a large cut of her drug profits if he leaves town and does not show up at the trial.
Penal Code §138(b):
(a) You were a witness or about to be called as a witness;
(b) You received/offered to receive a bribe;
(c) At the time when you received or offered to receive the bribe, you represented that the bribe would unlawfully influence your testimony or cause you not to attend the trial or other judicial proceeding.
John, a witness in the kidnapping conspiracy of Alice telephoned the two co-conspirators and informed them that he plans on testifying to all the details of the crime that he witnessed firsthand unless he can be persuaded otherwise. He then proceeded to accept a large sum of money promising that “now that they are on the same side, he will testify favorably at the trial.”
Who Can Be Charged With Bribery of Witnesses Under California Law?
Penal Code §137 & §138 PC: Bribery of Witnesses Pertaining to their Testimony:
You can be charged with the offense even if the witness/person giving information has not accepted the bribe/have been influenced by the bribe or failed to attend the trial or other judicial proceedings. However, you cannot be charged unless you had corrupt intent, as described above.
Penal Code §138 (b) Bribery by Witnesses Pertaining to Attendance at Trial or Other Legal Proceeding
You cannot be charged unless you had corrupt intent, as described above. The representation that the bribe would unlawfully influence the testimony or cause a witness not to attend the trial or other judicial proceeding may be express or implied.
How Can You Fight A Charge Of Bribery Of Witnesses & What Are The Legal Defenses?
Lack of corrupt intent: Because corrupt intent is one of the elements, it is a defense to this charge if you did not possess corrupt intent.
Coercion: If you can show that you only committed the offense because you were coerced into doing so, you will be able to get the charges dismissed.
Entrapment: If you can show that you committed the offense only because the police lured you into doing so, it operates as a defense to the offense.
Intoxication: Voluntary intoxication can also be a defense to this charge if you can show that you were intoxicated enough that you could not form the corrupt intent to commit the offense.
What Are the Penalties For Bribery Of Witnesses Under California Penal Code 137 & 138 PC?
The offense of bribery of witnesses under Penal Code 137 and 138 is a felony and can result in a sentence of up to 4 years in state prison if you are convicted.
How We Can Help
We have significant experience defending clients charged under California penal code 137 & 138 PC and in consultation with our clients we come up with the most effective defense strategy for your case.
The specialists at the Aizman Law Firm will aggressively defend each of our clients. Contact the Aizman law firm for a free consultation at 818-351-9555.
- Penal Code §137(a): Elements listed.
- The witness/person giving information does not need to have accepted the bribe/have been influenced by the bribe or have intended to give the testimony/information the defendant sought.
- As used here, bribe means something of present or future value or advantage, or a promise to give such a thing, that is given or offered with the corrupt intent to unlawfully influence the testimony or information of the person to whom the bribe is given. Bribe Defined. Pen. Code, § 7, subd. 6.
- A witness is someone who: (1) knows about the facts relating to the crime; or (2) whose declaration under oath has been or may be received as evidence; or (3) who has reported a crime to a peace officer/prosecutor/probation or parole officer/correctional officer/judicial officer; or (4) who has been served with a subpoena issued under the authority of any state or federal court. Witness Defined. Pen. Code, §136(2).
- A person is “about to be called as a witness” if he/she knows or has been told that he/she will be called as a witness or if he/she knows material information relating to the issues in a case that has been or may be filed. About to Be Called as a Witness: People v. Broce (1977) 76 Cal.App.3d 71, 75–76 [142 Cal.Rptr. 628].
- “Material information” is information that is significant or important.
- A “law enforcement official” includes the district attorney, deputy district attorney, city attorney, deputy city attorney, attorney general, deputy attorney general. Law Enforcement Official Defined. Pen. Code, § 137(e
- Offering a bribe does not require specific words or behavior, as long as the language used and the circumstances clearly show an intent to bribe. The thing offered does not need to actually be given, exist at the time it is offered, or have a specific value. Offering a Bribe: People v. Britton (1962) 205 Cal.App.2d 561, 564 [22 Cal.Rptr. 921].
- A person acts with “corrupt intent” when he or she acts to wrongfully gain a financial or other advantage for himself, herself, or someone else. “Corruptly” defined. Pen. Code, § 7, subd. 3.
- Intent Requirement: People v. Gliksman (1978) 78 Cal.App.3d 343, 346–350 [144 Cal.Rptr. 451].