Hurting a witness to prevent them from testifying is a felony in Nevada.
Intimidating a person from testifying in a case is illegal in Nevada. And if the defendant used physical force, the punishment may include prison. But a seasoned criminal defense attorney in Las Vegas may be able to get the charges knocked down to something minor or dropped completely.
This page contains information about the Nevada crime of preventing or dissuading a person from testifying or producing evidence. Continue reading for more information about the law, punishments, and defense strategies.
The legal definition of "preventing or dissuading a person from testifying or producing evidence" in Las Vegas, Nevada, has two central elements:
- The first element is that the defendant act with an intent to obstruct the course of justice.
- The second element is that the defendant use persuasion, force, threat, intimidation or deception either to:
- prevent (or attempt to prevent) another person from appearing before any court (or person authorized to subpoena witnesses) as a witness in any action, investigation or other official proceeding; or
- cause or induce another person to be absent from a legal proceeding or evade the process which requires the person to appear as a witness to testify or produce a record, document or other object
In other words, it's unlawful to bully or deceive a potential witness into not testifying at a case or offering evidence. Note that it's irrelevant whether the defendant's actions end up having no effect on the outcome of the case. . . simply the action of intimidating a witness is criminal in Nevada. NRS 199.230 is comparable to Penal Code 136.1, California's "dissuading a witness" law.
The Nevada Supreme Court has never published an opinion interpreting NRS 199.230. This actually works in the defense counsel's favor because it allows for them to try creative and "out-of-the-box" strategies depending on the specific facts of the case. Two possible ones are below:
- An obvious defense to this crime is to argue that the defendant had no intent to obstruct justice. As long as the prosecution can't show beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant meant to deprive the court of a potential witness or evidence, the Las Vegas Court should acquit the defendant.
- Another possible defense is that the defendant was wrongly accused. Perhaps the alleged victim in this case was subpoenaed but didn't want to testify, so he/she falsely claimed that the defendant scared him/her into not testifying so he/she wouldn't have to take the blame. If defense counsel can make a convincing argument for this scenario, the case may be dismissed.
Note that it is not a defense to show that the victim in this case wouldn't have testified or presented evidence anyway even if the defendant hadn't threatened him/her. The outcome of a case is immaterial in prosecuting someone for intimidating a witness into not testifying.
The punishment for preventing a witness from testifying or offering evidence depends on the severity of the defendant's conduct. If the defendant used no physical force nor the immediate threat of physical force, it's prosecuted as a gross misdemeanor in Nevada. The sentence includes:
- up to 364 days in a county jail such as the Clark County Detention Center, and/or
- up to $2,000 in fines
But if the defendant did use physical force or the immediate threat of physical force, then the defendant faces charges for a category D felony in Nevada. The sentence carries:
- 1 - 4 years in Nevada State Prison, and
- maybe up to $5,000 in fines
Accused? Call us . . . .
If you've been arrested for preventing or dissuading a person from testifying or producing evidence under NRS 199.230, phone 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673). Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys can consult with you for free about the benefits of plea-bargaining versus going to trial and your best chances of success in keeping your record clean.
Also see our article about Nevada coercion laws.