Witness Tampering in Florida Felony Cases a Serious Offense

It may seem as if there are few things worse than being arrested for homicide.
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But there are ways that you can actually make it worse. One of those is witness tampering. Florida Statute 914.22 and 914.23 address tampering with, harassing or retaliating against a witness, victim or informant. What the law says is that if you engage in intimidation or physical force or threats of physical force against a person in an effort to have testimony or records or documents withheld from an official investigation or proceeding, you can be charged with a felony.

The severity of that felony – and therefore the punishment – depends on the nature of your interference. It’s considered a third-degree felony if you tamper or retaliate with a witness in a misdemeanor case. You’ll face up to five years in prison if convicted.

If however the underlying crime is a third-degree felony and you attempt to tamper with a witness, then you end up facing a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years. And if the underlying crime was a second-degree felony and you tamper with a witness, suddenly you’re facing a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison. In certain murder cases, it’s possible that witness tampering can be considered a life felony.

These are not crimes you want to take lightly.

Yet this is the situation facing on Palm Beach County man, who authorities say was attempting to bully a pair of witnesses to a possible murder into not testifying. Investigators say the defendant threatened the two that they would be the next to die if they continued to cooperate with authorities.

The 45-year-old defendant, a registered sex offender, was being investigated for his role in the death of a 54-year-old man last month. Reports were that the two men were involved in an altercation for unknown reasons, and the older man later died.

The case was being investigated as a “possible” homicide, as the exact cause of death wasn’t yet clear. The defendant was the son of the victim’s girlfriend.

The two potential witnesses indicated to investigators that they had seen the dispute. One of the witnesses, a roommate of the defendant, told authorities he was approached by the hammer-wielding suspect and threatened with death. The second witness was reportedly threatened via a third-party, whom he allegedly told he planned to hire someone to kill the second witness.

At the time of his arrest on charges of witness tampering, he had not yet been charged with the homicide of the 54-year-old deceased victim. However, it’s expected that those charges may soon follow.

The defendant has at least four prior felony convictions in Florida and possibly several more in Maryland, where he’s been arrested at least 15 times over the past decade. As with any criminal case, prior criminal records can serve to complicate a case by upping the potential for a heftier sentence upon conviction.

Defending against a claim of witness tampering may involve targeting the credibility of the witness or downplaying any alleged statements or threats by dismissing the notion that you had any serious intent when you made them.

If you are charged with a crime in Palm Beach or Broward counties, contact the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert, a Partnership of Former Prosecutors, for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call 1.888.5.DEFEND.

Additional Resources:
Man eyed in homicide probe accused of threatening witnesses, Oct. 11, 2013, By Brett Clarkson, Sun Sentinel
More Blog Entries:
Florida Felony Convictions: Incentives to Keep Sentences High, Sept. 28, 2013, Palm Beach Homicide Defense Lawyer Blog

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