California Penal Code Section 137 PC & California Penal Code Section 138 PC: Bribery Of Or By Witnesses


1. Definition and Elements of the Crimes

The legal system depends on witnesses coming forward and providing honest testimony. Any actions made to try to influence the witness' testimony in exchange for something of value is a serious felony-level offense that can result in a lengthy prison sentence.

Bribery of Witnesses regarding their testimony is a crime pursuant to California Penal Code Section 137(a) PC and Bribery of Witnesses regarding trial attendance is illegal under Californian Penal Code Section 138(a) PC. Bribery by a Witness regarding either testimony or attendance is unlawful under Californian Penal Code Section 138(b) PC.

The crime of Bribery of a Witness Regarding their Testimony (Penal Code 137(a) PC) requires the following elements:

  1. A person gives or offers a witness
  2. Cash or something of value
  3. With corrupt intent
  4. To influence the testimony of that witness.

Penal Code 138(a) PC (Bribery of a Witness Regarding Trial Attendance) contains the same elements, with the key difference being that the bribe is made in exchange for getting the witness not to attend a trial proceeding.

Under California Penal Code Section 138(b) PC, it is against the law for a witness to solicit bribes. This occurs when:

  1. A witness requests, receives or agrees to receive
  2. Money or something of value
  3. With corrupt intent
  4. To influence his or her testimony or appearance at trial.

2. Examples

A man has been charged with Arson under California Penal Code Section 541 PC and is aware that there is only one witness for the People who will testify that he saw the defendant start the fire in question. The man approaches the witness and offers to pay him a substantial amount of money if he were to change his story while on the witness and stand and provide a statement supporting the defendant. The man offering the bribe would be guilty of Bribery of a Witness and could be convicted of this felony.

In another example, a witness to a car crash approaches the plaintiff in a civil lawsuit and offers to change his story so it is more beneficial to the plaintiff in exchange for a large sum of cash. This witness has committed Bribery by a Witness under Penal Code Section 138(b) PC.

3. Related Offenses

Related offenses include:

  1. Bribery of and by Executive Officers and Ministerial Employees - California Penal Code Section 67 PC and California Penal Code Section 68 PC
  2. Bribery of or by Legislators - California Penal Code Section 85 PC and California Penal Code Section 86 PC
  3. Bribery of Judges/Jurors – California Penal Code Section 92 PC and California Penal Code Section 93 PC
  4. Bribery of Supervisors and Public Corporations – California Penal Code Section 165 PC
  5. Commercial Bribery – California Penal Code Section 641.3 PC
  6. Intimidating a Witness or Victim - California Penal Code Section 136.1 PC.

4. Defenses to Bribery Charges

In some instances, law enforcement may conduct undercover sting operations to try and catch corrupt witnesses soliciting or accepting bribes. If the undercover officer becomes too aggressive with a bribe or otherwise attempts to induce someone into doing something they normally would not do by applying intense pressure, an Entrapment defense may apply.

5. Penalties

Bribery of and by a Witness is a felony-level offense that is punishable by up to four years in prison and substantial court fines, fees and assessments.

6. Criminal Defense for Bribery Cases

If you or someone you know are being investigated for or have been charged with Bribery of a Witness, it is crucial that you consult with an experienced Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney immediately. As a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience, Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut is highly capable of representing clients charged with Bribery and other related offenses. Mr. Kraut has established key relationships within law enforcement agencies and prosecutor's offices and is widely respected as a passionate defender of his clients' rights.

For more information about Bribery of or by Witnesses, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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