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Tampering with a Witness

Contact a criminal defense attorney to discuss any allegation of tampering or harassing a witness or alleged victim. It is best not to have any contact with a witness while a criminal case or investigation is pending. However, in many of these cases, the witness is a spouse, family member, co-worker, or neighbor. In those cases, avoiding all contact is difficult.

The most common defenses in these cases are that the contact never occurred, that the contact was for some legitimate purpose, or that the contact was initiated in an attempt to influence the witness or alleged victim to testify truthfully (and not untruthfully).

Call 813-250-0500 to discuss the case with a criminal defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm in Tampa, FL. We represent clients on criminal charges throughout Hillsborough County, and the surrounding counties throughout the greater Tampa Bay area.


Elements of Tampering with a Witness under Florida Law

Florida Statute Section 914.22(1) contains the following elements:

  1. A person knowingly does one of the following:

a. uses intimidation or physical force; or
b. threatens another person; or
c. attempts o threaten another person; or
d. engages in misleading conduct toward another person; or
e. offers pecuniary benefit or gain to another person; and

2. The act is committed with the intent to cause or induce any person to:

  • Withhold testimony, or withhold a record, document, or other object, from an official investigation or official proceeding;
  • Alter, destroy, mutilate, or conceal an object with intent to impair the integrity or availability of the object for use in an official investigation or official proceeding;
  • Evade legal process summoning that person to appear as a witness, or to produce a record, document, or other object, in an official investigation or an official proceeding;
  • Be absent from an official proceeding to which such person has been summoned by legal process;
  • Hinder, delay, or prevent the communication to a law enforcement officer or judge of information relating to the commission or possible commission of an offense or a violation of a condition of probation, parole, or release pending a judicial proceeding; or
  • Testify untruthfully in an official investigation or an official proceeding.

The penalties and punishments for tampering with a witness are set out in Florida Statute Section 914.22(2). As a general rule, the charges for tampering with a witness depending on the seriousness of the underlying charge. For instance where the official investigation or official proceeding affected involves the investigation or prosecution of:

  • a misdemeanor then the crime can be charged as a felony of the third degree;
  • a third degree felony then the crime can be charged as a felony of the second degree;
  • a second degree felony then the crime can be charged as a felony of the first degree;
  • a first degree felony or a first degree felony punishable by a term of years not exceeding life then the crime can be charged as a felony of the first degree; or
  • a life or capital felony then the crime can be charged as a life felony.

Under Florida Statute Section 914.22(2)(f), when the offense level of the affected official investigation or official proceeding is indeterminable or where the affected official investigation or official proceeding involves a noncriminal investigation or proceeding then the crime can be charged as a third degree felony.


Definitions for Florida's Witness Tampering Statute

Under § 914.21, Fla. Stat., the term "misleading conduct" is defined, for purposes of Florida's witness tampering statute, to mean:

  • Knowingly making a false statement;
  • Intentionally omitting information from a statement and thereby causing a portion of such statement to be misleading, or intentionally concealing a material fact and thereby creating a false impression by such statement;
  • With intent to mislead, knowingly submitting or inviting reliance on a writing or recording that is false, forged, altered, or otherwise lacking in authenticity;
  • With intent to mislead, knowingly submitting or inviting reliance on a sample, specimen, map, photograph, boundary mark, or other object that is misleading in a material respect; or
  • Knowingly using a trick, scheme, or device with intent to mislead.

The term "official investigation" is defined to mean "any investigation instituted by a law enforcement agency or prosecuting officer of the state or a political subdivision of the state or the Commission on Ethics."

The term "official proceeding” is defined to mean one of the following:

  • A proceeding before a judge or court or a grand jury;
  • A proceeding before the Legislature;
  • A proceeding before a federal agency that is authorized by law; or
  • A proceeding before the Commission on Ethics.

The term "physical force" is defined to mean "physical action against another and includes confinement."


Harassing a Witness, Victim or Informant

Under Florida Statute Section 914.22(3) a person commits the crime of harassing a witness, victim, or informant when the person:

  1. intentionally harasses another person; and
  2. thereby hinders, delays, prevents, or dissuades any person from:
  • Attending or testifying in an official proceeding or cooperating in an official investigation;
  • Reporting to a law enforcement officer or judge the commission or possible commission of an offense or a violation of a condition of probation, parole, or release pending a judicial proceeding;
  • Arresting or seeking the arrest of another person in connection with an offense; or
  • Causing a criminal prosecution, or a parole or probation revocation proceeding, to be sought or instituted, or from assisting in such prosecution or proceeding;
  • or attempts to do so.

Under Florida Statute Section 914.22(4) provides the penalties and punishments for harassing a witness, victim, or informant. The penalties and punishments depend on the severity of the underlying offense. For example, where the official investigation or official proceeding affected involves the investigation or prosecution of:

  • a misdemeanor then the crime can be charged as a misdemeanor of the first degree;
  • a third degree felony then the crime can be charged as a felony of the third degree;
  • a second degree felony then the crime can be charged as a felony of the second degree;
  • a first degree felony then the crime can be charged as a felony of the first degree;
  • a felony of the first degree punishable by a term of years not exceeding life or a prosecution of a life or capital felony then the crime can be charged as a felony of the first degree;

Under Florida Statute Section 914.22(4), where the offense level of the affected official investigation or official proceeding is indeterminable or where the affected official investigation or official proceeding involves a noncriminal investigation or proceeding then the crime can be charged as a felony of the third degree.


Limitation on Defenses to Tampering or Harassing a Witness

It is not necessarily a defense to the crime that the official proceeding is not actually pending or about to be initiated. See Florida Statute Section 914.22(5). It is also not necessarily a defense that the testimony or the record, document, or other object need not be admissible in evidence or free of a claim of privilege.

The statute also provides that in a prosecution for the crime of tampering or harassing a witness, the prosecutor with the State Attorney's Office does not need to prove any state of mind with respect to the circumstance:

  • That the official proceeding before a judge, court, grand jury, or government agency is before a judge or court of the state, a state or local grand jury, or a state agency; or
  • That the judge is a judge of the state or that the law enforcement officer is an officer or employee of the state or a person authorized to act for or on behalf of the state or serving the state as an adviser or consultant.

Addition Resources on Witness Tampering

Florida Statute 914.22 - Visit the website of the Florida Senate to read the statutory language and learn more about the legislative history behind Florida's statute for tampering or harassing a witness or victim in a pending criminal case or investigation.

Witness Tampering - Visit Wikipedia to learn more about witness tampering charges in the state and federal courts in the United States. The article discusses charges for witness tampering in federal court as defined by statute at 18 U.S.C. § 1512. The article also discusses similar charges in England and Wales known as "perverting the course of justice" under Section 51 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994.


Finding an Attorney for Tampering with a Witness Charges in Tampa Bay

If you are charged with tampering or harassing a witness under Florida Statute Section 914.22 then contact a criminal defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm. We represent clients on a wide variety of felony charges throughout Tampa, Hillsborough County, and the surrounding area of Tampa Bay including Pinellas County, Pasco County, and Hernando County, FL. 

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