There are actually two separate crimes that are encompassed in the term “witness bribery.” The first is the bribing of a witness, and the second is bribery by a witness. The first type of witness bribery is prohibited by NRS 199.240, while the second type is prohibited by NRS 199.250. Regardless of which type of witness bribery is being contemplated, the penalties are very harsh.
What is the difference between the two?
Essentially, the only difference is who offers the bribe. In the first type, someone offers a bribe to the witness in exchange for favorable testimony. In the second type, the witness offers to alter his testimony in exchange for a bribe.
Please Note: It is not unimportant whether the person actually alters their testimony, or even ends up testifying. The crime of witness bribery has been completed at the moment you make the offer.
What is bribery of a witness?
Witness tampering goes straight to the very core of our justice system. How can anyone receive a fair and impartial trial if witness testimony is based more on who is willing to pay the most than on what actually happened?
NRS 199.240 states:
A person who:
- Gives, offers or promises directly or indirectly any compensation, gratuity or reward to any witness or person who may be called as a witness in an official proceeding, upon an agreement or understanding that his or her testimony will be thereby influenced; or
- Uses any force, threat, intimidation or deception with the intent to:
- Influence the testimony of any witness or person who may be called as a witness in an official proceeding;
- Cause or induce him or her to give false testimony or to withhold true testimony; or
- Cause or induce him or her to withhold a record, document or other object from the proceeding,
- Is guilty of a Category C felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.130, and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $50,000.00.
What is Bribery by a witness?
Bribery by a witness is more like extortion than bribery. It usually arises when a witness offers to provide testimony that is favorable to one party or the other in exchange for some form of “bribe.”
NRS 199.250 states
A person who is or may be a witness upon a trial, hearing, investigation or other proceeding before any court, tribunal or person authorized to hear evidence or take testimony, who asks or receives, directly or indirectly any compensation, gratuity or reward, or any promise thereof, upon an agreement or understanding that his or her testimony will be influenced thereby, or that the person will be absent from the trial hearing or other proceeding, is guilty of a category C felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.130.
So what constitutes “Bribery”
As with all other Bribery crimes, “bribery” consists of ‘offering, promising either directly or indirectly, any compensation, gratuity, or reward’. It essentially means to offer or promise any thing that has value. This is, of course, an intentionally broad definition, that allows prosecutors to determine whether to charge based on a case-by-case basis.
What is notable about NRS 199.240 is that subsection 2 indicates that you can “bribe” someone by threatening them with physical force or intimidation if they do not testify how you want them to.
Please Note: Witness bribery is a crime of intent. So long as your offer or promise is made with the intent to influence the other person’s testimony, you are guilty of witness bribery.
What is the possible penalty?
Bribery of a witness is a Category C felony which carries a penalty of:
- Between 1 and 5 years in a Nevada State Prison; and
- The possibility of a fine up to $50,000.00.
What are my possible defenses?
As with any crime, the possible defenses that may apply to your case will depend on the specific facts of your case. In deciding what defenses apply, it is important to remember that the prosecutor must prove every element of the crime, beyond a reasonable doubt. As such, the most common defenses include:
- No intent – As already mentioned above, in order to be guilty of witness bribery, there must have been an intent to influence the witness’s testimony. If you have been charged with bribery of a witness, then the prosecutor must prove that you offered a bribe with the intent to influence a witness’s testimony. If you have been charged with bribery by a witness, then the prosecutor must prove that you intended to give favorable testimony in exchange for a bribe. If the prosecutor cannot prove the required intent, then the charges should be dropped or dismissed.
- No Bribe – This may seem obvious, but there can be no witness bribery if there is no actual bribe. If there was no offer or promise of a reward or payment, then there can be no witness bribery. Similarly, with charges of bribery by a witness, there can be no bribe if you never intended to give testimony based on a payment or reward. Without an offer or request for a payment or reward, the charges should be dropped or dismissed.
- Illegal Search – As with any crime, if the evidence against you was gained through an illegal search or seizure, then the evidence is inadmissible in the case against you. This could lead to a lack of evidence which would require that the charges against you be dropped or dismissed.
What should I do if I’ve been charged with Witness Bribery?
You should speak with an experienced attorney as soon as possible to discuss the specific facts of your case and any possible defenses.