NRS 199.240 is the Nevada statute that makes it a crime to bribe a witness to influence their testimony. Similarly, NRS 199.250 make it a crime for a witness to seek or receive a bribe to sway their testimony.
Witness bribery is prosecuted as a category C felony, carrying 1 to 10 years in prison. Though we may be able to get the charges lessened or even dismissed.
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. What does witness bribery mean?
- 2. How do I fight the charges?
- 3. Will I go to jail?
- 4. Can I be deported?
- 5. Can my record be sealed?
- 6. Is it a federal crime?
- 7. What are the witness bribery statutes?
- 8. Related criminal offenses
1. What does witness bribery mean?
1.1. Bribery of a witness
Bribery of a witness occurs when you pay (or agree to pay) a witness in order to influence their testimony in an official proceeding (such as a trial). It does not matter whether the payment consists of:
- property, and/or
Example: Sandra’s husband John is going to trial in Carson City for committing DUI. Sandra offers the state’s witness $1,000 to lie on the stand and testify that John drank only soda, not beer.
Here, Sandra is guilty even if the witness refuses the bribe or if the witness tells the truth after taking the money. (And if the witness does accept the bribe, the witness would face charges for bribery by a witness, discussed below.)
In short, bribery of a witness is attempting to pay off a witness in order to “fix” the testimony.1
1.2. Bribery by a witness
Bribery by a witness occurs when a witness in an official proceeding asks for or receives payment in order to influence their testimony.
Example: John is a key witness in an upcoming district court trial in Henderson for battery domestic violence. John then calls the defendant’s parents and offers not to show up to the trial if they pay him $1,000.
Here, John could be convicted of bribery by a witness even if the defendant’s parents refuse to pay him or if John does show up after taking the money. (And if the parents do pay, they could be charged with bribery of a witness.)
Similar to bribery of a witness, bribery by a witness remains a crime no matter whether the payment consists of:
- property, and/or
2. How do I fight the charges?
Witness bribery is considered a specific intent crime under Nevada law. This means that no jury can convict you unless they believe you intended to influence a witness’s testimony.3
Therefore in our experience, the most effective defense to witness bribery charges is to claim that you had no intent to influence the testimony. We could argue that:
- you were having an innocent conversation, and
- your words were misconstrued as bribery.
As long as insufficient evidence exists to prove beyond a reasonable doubt you had criminal intent, the charges should be dismissed.
We can also file a motion to suppress evidence requesting that the judge throw out any evidence the police officers found through an unlawful search. If the judge agrees that law enforcement broke the law, the D.A. might drop the entire case for lack of proof.
Note that the following two arguments cannot get your “bribery of a witness” charges dismissed:
- the trial or hearing in question has not been scheduled yet; or
- the testimony being sought would be inadmissible anyway.4
3. Will I go to jail?
Witness bribery is a category C felony in Nevada carrying one to 10 years in prison. In addition, the court can impose a fine:
- Up to $50,000 for bribery of a witness; or
- Up to $10,000 for bribery by a witness.5
The state may also pursue asset forfeiture proceedings to recover any bribe money or property that changed hands.
However, we may be able to persuade the judge to grant probation instead of jail so you can remain out of custody.
4. Can I be deported?
Non-citizens convicted of witness bribery can be deported because this crime is considered an aggravated felony.6 This is why our legal team fights so hard to get these charges dropped or reduced to a non-deportable offense.
5. Can my record be sealed?
Your witness bribery conviction can be sealed from your criminal records five years after the case ends. If your criminal case gets dismissed, then you can pursue a record seal immediately.7
Learn about how to seal Nevada criminal records.
6. Is it a federal crime?
Witness bribery is a crime under federal law only when it:
- involves a federal case, or
- affects interstate commerce.
Federal court judges can impose:
- up to 15 years in federal prison, and/or
- up to 3 times the bribe amount.8
Learn more about federal witness bribery laws.
7. What are the witness bribery statutes?
NRS 199.240(1). Bribing or intimidating witness to influence testimony.
A person who:
1.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…
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.
199.250. Witness accepting bribe.
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.
8. Related criminal offenses
8.1. Dissuading a witness
Dissuading a witness (NRS 199.230) is attempting to keep a witness from appearing in court through:
- intimidation, or
with the intent to obstruct justice.
Dissuading a witness can be a category D felony or a gross misdemeanor depending on whether physical force (or the immediate threat of physical force) was used.
8.2. Intimidating a witness to influence testimony
NRS 199.240(2) makes it a category C felony to use:
- threat, or
with the intent to influence witness testimony. The penalties are identical to those for bribery of a witness.
Perjury (NRS 199.120) is lying under oath. People face category D felony charges for:
- committing perjury themselves, or
- inducing others to commit perjury (called “subornation of perjury”).
Extortion (NRS 205.320) – which is also called blackmail – is a more serious crime than bribery under state law. It is deliberately threatening another person’s:
- property, or
for the purpose of gaining money or influence. Extortion is a category B felony.
Arrested? Under criminal investigation? Contact our Las Vegas, NV criminal law firm for legal advice on your criminal charge. We practice in Clark County and throughout the state of Nevada.
See our related articles on Nevada bribery crimes, bribery of/by judges or jurors, sports bribery, bribery of/by public officials, and commercial bribery.
In California? Go to our page on Penal Codes 137 & 138 PC.
- NRS 199.240(1). See, for example, Fox v. Sheriff, Clark County, (1970) 86 Nev. 21.
- NRS 199.250.
- See notes 1 and 2.
- NRS 199.242 (“It is not a defense to a prosecution under NRS 199.230 or 199.240 to show that: 1. An official proceeding was not pending or about to be instituted; or 2. The testimony sought or the record, document or other object to have been produced would have been legally privileged or inadmissible in evidence.”).
- See notes 1 and 2.
- 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(43)(S).
- NRS 179.245. NRS 179.255.
- 18 U.S.C. § 201. See, for example, United States v. Smith, (9th. Cir., 1999) 196 F.3d 1034.