In Colorado, offering money or other benefits to a witness or victim of a crime to influence their decisions is the felony crime of bribing a witness. The penalties for bribery of a witness or victim include up to 6 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000. In this article, our Denver Colorado criminal defense lawyers will address:
- 1. What is bribery?
- 2. What is bribing a witness or victim?
- 3. What kinds of actions are considered illegal bribery in Colorado?
- 4. What are the penalties for bribing a witness?
- 5. Related Offenses
1. What is bribery?
Bribery under Colorado law involves offering money, favor, or any benefit to influence a person’s actions or decisions. Benefits include any gain or advantage, including gains or advantages to a third party. Bribery could involve offering money, property, or sexual services.
2. What is bribing a witness or victim?
A person commits bribing a witness or victim in Colorado if he or she offers any benefit to influence the actions of the witness or victim.1 This includes influencing the witness or victim to:
- Testify falsely
- Unlawfully withhold any testimony
- Avoid legal process summoning him or her to testify
- Be absent from an official proceeding
A “victim” means any person against whom any crime has been perpetrated or attempted. This could include a victim who suffered a physical injury from an assault, drunk driving accident, or sexual assault. It may also include victims of property crime, such as robbery victims, victims of fraud. It may also include state and federal crimes.2
A “witness” is any person who:
- Has knowledge of facts relating to a crime;
- Has made a declaration under oath for evidence;
- Reported any crime to a police officer, correctional officer, or judicial officer;
- Has been served a subpoena by the court; or
- Who would be reasonably believed to be any of the above.3
3. What kinds of actions are considered illegal bribery in Colorado?
There may be a number of reasons why someone would contact a victim, witness, or family member of a witness or victim. An individual may not think that what they are doing is a crime by talking to a family member of the victim. A family member may think they are doing their loved one a favor by contacting the victim to try and avoid a criminal conviction.
Contacting the victim or witness is common in domestic violence or sexual assault crimes. The defendant may contact the victim and ask why they had to call the police, that the crime wasn’t very serious, or that a criminal conviction could destroy their life. They may offer some benefit to the victim or witness to try and get them to drop the charges or not show up to testify. In some cases, even an innocent person can be charged with bribing a witness.
4. What are the penalties for bribing a witness?
Considered an obstruction of justice crime, bribery of a witness or victim is a class 4 felony in Colorado.4 The minimum penalty for a class 4 felony conviction for bribing a witness is 2 years in prison and a fine of $2,000. The maximum penalty for witness bribery is 6 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000. In addition, there is a mandatory parole period of 3 years.
A felony conviction for bribery can disqualify you from jury duty and prohibit you from holding a public office in the future. Bribery is considered a “crime of moral turpitude,” or a crime against the public good. Witness or victim bribery, and other crimes of moral turpitude may be deportable offenses for individuals who are not U.S. citizens.
5. Related Offenses
5.1. Bribery C.R.S. 18-8-302
Bribery is offering money or anything of value to a public servant with the intent to influence the public servant’s vote, judgment, or other action. Bribery is generally charged as a class 3 felony in Colorado, with penalties including up to 12 years in prison and a fine of up to $750,000.
5.2. Witness Tampering C.R.S. 18-8-707
Tampering with a witness involves attempts to get a witness to withhold testimony, testify falsely, or be absent from an official proceeding. Tampering with a witness is a class 4 felony, with penalties including 2 to 6 years in prison and up to $500,000 in fines.
5.3. Intimidating a Witness C.R.S. 18-8-704
Intimidating a witness involves harassment or using threats of harm or injury a witness or victim of a crime to influence the witness or victim. Intimidating a witness is a class 4 felony, with penalties including 2 to 6 years in prison and up to $500,000 in fines.
See our related article on aggravated intimidation of a witness or victim (CRS 18-8-705).
5.4. Bribing a Juror C.R.S. 18-8-606
Bribing a juror involves offering or agreeing to offer money or any other benefit upon a juror to influence the juror’s vote or opinion. Bribing a juror is a class 4 felony, with penalties including 2 to 6 years in prison and up to $500,000 in fines.
Call us for help…
If you have been accused of bribing or attempting to bribe a witness or victim, please contact us at Colorado Legal Defense Group.
- C.R.S. 18-8-703. See also People v. Lancaster, (2022) 2022 COA 82.
- C.R.S. 18-8-702(1)
- C.R.S. 18-8-702(2)
- C.R.S. 18-8-703(2)