Witness Intimidation Laws in California - PC 136.1

Criminal Defense Picture

Witness Intimidation Laws in California

The California Penal Code 136.1 PC states that it is illegal to discourage, threaten, or interfere with a witness or victim of a crime with the intention of stopping them from reporting the crime or providing testimony or assistance to the authorities. In essence, it is a crime to prevent a witness or victim from cooperating with law enforcement in relation to a crime.

To be convicted under Penal Code 136.1 PC, a prosecutor must demonstrate that you acted with knowledge and intent to obstruct a witness or victim of a crime from participating in the legal process. This may include attempting to discourage or prevent the individual from giving testimony at a court proceeding, reporting the crime, or providing assistance to the authorities during the prosecution or arrest process.

Under Penal Code 136.1 PC, intimidating a witness is considered a crime of specific intent, requiring that the defendant acted with both awareness and ill will. The term "knowingly" implies that the individual was aware of the circumstances that made their actions illegal.

It is important to note that according to Penal Code 136.1 PC, a victim is defined as an individual who believes that they have been the target of a state or federal crime. Furthermore, it is irrelevant whether the attempt to intimidate or dissuade the witness was successful. Simply making an effort to prevent the witness from cooperating with authorities is sufficient to be charged with witness tampering.

The law reads: 

“(a) Any person who does any of the following is guilty of a public offense:

(1) Knowingly and maliciously prevents or dissuades [or attempts to prevent or dissuade] any witness or victim from attending or giving testimony at any trial, proceeding, or inquiry authorized by law.

(b) Every person who attempts to prevent or dissuade another person who has been the victim of a crime or who is witness to a crime from doing any of the following is guilty of a public offense…

(1) Making any report of that victimization to any peace officer or state or local law enforcement officer…

(2) Causing a complaint, indictment, information, probation or parole violation to be sought and prosecuted…

(3) Arresting or causing or seeking the arrest of any person in connection with that victimization.”

Possible Legal Defenses

If you have been charged with intimidating a witness under Penal Code 136.1 PC, you may have options for mounting a legal defense. To be convicted of this crime, the prosecution must prove that you acted with both knowledge and malicious intent. To challenge the prosecution's case, you may raise a defense that raises a reasonable doubt about one or more elements of the crime.

Three common defenses that can be used to contest the charges include:

Lack of knowledge: 

By demonstrating that you did not have the knowledge or malicious intent required for the crime, you may be able to cast doubt on the prosecution's case. For example, if you were unaware that your actions could be perceived as intimidating or dissuasive, or if you acted without the intention of causing harm or inconvenience, you may be able to argue that you did not commit the crime.

No witness or victim: 

Another defense that can be raised is that the person in question was not a witness or victim of a crime. For example, if the individual was not involved in the reporting, investigation, or prosecution of a crime, they may not be considered a witness or victim and therefore the charges may not apply.

Falsely accused: 

Finally, you may be able to argue that you have been wrongly accused of the crime. This can occur if, for example, you were at the wrong place at the wrong time, if someone else committed the crime and blamed you, or if there was a mistake in identification. By presenting evidence that undermines the credibility of the prosecution's case, you may be able to cast doubt on your guilt.

Remember, these are just a few of the defenses that can be raised in a case involving Penal Code 136.1 PC. The specific facts and circumstances of your case will dictate which defenses may be most applicable to your situation.


Penal Code 136.1a is a unique type of crime, as it is classified as a "wobbler" offense. This means that the charge can be either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the case and the decision of the prosecutor. The classification of the charge will have a significant impact on the potential consequences of a conviction. Misdemeanor charges are less severe than felonies, but still carry significant consequences, including fines, probation, and up to one year in county jail. On the other hand, felony charges carry more severe consequences, including longer prison sentences, hefty fines, and a permanent criminal record.

It is important to work with a criminal defense attorney who can help you understand the specific charges against you and the potential consequences of a conviction. They can also help you build a strong defense to challenge the charges and protect your rights.


If a violation of Penal Code 136.1a is charged as a misdemeanor, the potential consequences of a conviction include imprisonment in county jail for a period of up to one year, and/or a fine of up to $1,000.


If the violation of Penal Code 136.1a is charged as a felony, the consequences of a conviction could include imprisonment in state prison for a period of up to four years and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

It is important to note that in certain circumstances, the violation of Penal Code 136.1a will automatically be charged as a felony. This includes situations where the intimidation was part of a larger conspiracy if threats or use of violence were involved, if the individual has a prior conviction for intimidating a witness or victim, or if the individual was hired to commit the crime. In these cases, the consequences of a conviction will be much more severe, including longer prison sentences and higher fines.

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