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Tampering with / Harassing a Witness

Witnesses in criminal cases are frequently afraid to testify in court because of fears about possible retribution by alleged offenders. Prosecutors can see criminal cases crumble when witnesses do not appear or even recant their initial statements after being intimidated by the person accused of committing crimes or associates of those alleged offenders.

The State of Florida makes it a criminal offense to harass or intimidate a witness, victim, or informant. Depending on the nature of the alleged crime in question, tampering with or harassing a witness can be a felony offense that carries steep penalties, including a lengthy prison sentence and significant fines.

Lawyer for Tampering with a Witness in St. Petersburg, FL

If you were arrested in the Tampa area for allegedly intimidating, harassing, or tampering with a witness, victim, or informant, it is in your best interest to immediately retain legal counsel. The Morris Law Firm, P.A. defends clients throughout Pinellas County, including Pinellas Park, Dunedin, Clearwater, Largo, and other nearby communities.

St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney Melinda Morris understands what weaknesses to look for in a prosecutor’s case because of her prior experience as a former Assistant State Attorney with the Sixth Judicial Circuit.

The Morris Law Firm can provide an honest and thorough evaluation of your case as when you call (727) 388-4736 to take advantage of a completely free initial consultation.


Florida Tampering with / Harassing a Witness Information Center


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Tampering with a Witness Penalties in Pinellas County

Under Florida Statute § 914.22, a person commits the crime of Tampering With a Witness, Victim, or Informant if he or she knowingly uses intimidation or physical force, or threatens another person, or attempts to do so, or engages in misleading conduct toward another person, or offers pecuniary benefit or gain to another person, with intent to cause or induce any person to:

  • Withhold testimony, or withhold a record, document, or other object, from an official investigation or official proceeding;
  • Alter, destroy, mutilate, or conceal an object with intent to impair the integrity or availability of the object for use in an official investigation or official proceeding;
  • Evade legal process summoning that person to appear as a witness, or to produce a record, document, or other object, in an official investigation or an official proceeding;
  • Be absent from an official proceeding to which such person has been summoned by legal process;
  • Hinder, delay, or prevent the communication to a law enforcement officer or judge of information relating to the commission or possible commission of an offense or a violation of a condition of probation, parole, or release pending a judicial proceeding; or
  • Testify untruthfully in an official investigation or an official proceeding.

The classification of a Tampering With a Witness, Victim, or Informant offense depends on the nature of the crime that was being investigated or prosecuted. Typically, Tampering With a Witness, Victim, or Informant is graded as follows:

  • Third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000 if the official investigation or official proceeding affected involves the investigation or prosecution of a misdemeanor, the offense level of the affected official investigation or official proceeding is indeterminable, or the affected official investigation or official proceeding involves a noncriminal investigation or proceeding;
  • Second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000 if the official investigation or official proceeding affected involves the investigation or prosecution of a third-degree felony;
  • First-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000 if the official investigation or official proceeding affected involves the investigation or prosecution of a second-degree felony or first-degree felony; or
  • Life felony punishable by up to life in prison and/or a fine of up to $15,000 if the official investigation or official proceeding affected involves the investigation or prosecution of a life or capital felony.

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Harassing a Witness Penalties in St. Petersburg

Florida Statute § 914.22 also establishes that a person commits the crime of Harassing A Witness, Victim, or Informant if he or she intentionally harasses another person and thereby hinders, delays, prevents, or dissuades any person from:

  • Attending or testifying in an official proceeding or cooperating in an official investigation;
  • Reporting to a law enforcement officer or judge the commission or possible commission of an offense or a violation of a condition of probation, parole, or release pending a judicial proceeding;
  • Arresting or seeking the arrest of another person in connection with an offense; or
  • Causing a criminal prosecution, or a parole or probation revocation proceeding, to be sought or instituted, or from assisting in such prosecution or proceeding.

Much like tampering charges, Harassing a Witness, Victim, or Informant offenses are graded based on the nature of the crime that was being investigated or prosecuted. Harassing a Witness, Victim, or Informant offenses are classified as follows:

  • First-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000 if the official investigation or official proceeding affected involves the investigation or prosecution of a misdemeanor;
  • Third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000 if the official investigation or official proceeding affected involves the investigation or prosecution of a third-degree felony, the offense level of the affected official investigation or official proceeding is indeterminable, or the affected official investigation or official proceeding involves a noncriminal investigation or proceeding;
  • Second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000 if the official investigation or official proceeding affected involves the investigation or prosecution of a second-degree felony; or
  • First-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000 if the official investigation or official proceeding affected involves the investigation or prosecution of a first-degree felony, although first-degree felony offenses are punishable by up to life in prison if the official investigation or official proceeding affected involves the investigation or prosecution of a life or capital felony.

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Florida Resources for Tampering with / Harassing a Witness Crimes

Florida Statute § 914.22 | Tampering with or harassing a witness, victim, or informant — View the full text of Florida’s state law governing tampering and harassing witness offenses. Learn more about specific definitions relating to this statute. You can also find additional information about penalties.

Williams v. State, 145 So. 3d 997 (Fla. 1st DCA 2014) — While Charlie Williams was acquitted of lewd or lascivious molestation of a victim 12 years of age or older but less than 16 years of age after being accused of trying to touch his girlfriend’s 15-year-old daughter while exposing himself, he was charged with and found guilty at the same trial on three counts of tampering with a witness. Williams testified at trial that his letters to his girlfriend were requests that she tell the truth regarding what took place the night of his alleged offense, and the First District Court of Appeal noted that an “attempt to persuade a witness to testify truthfully is not a crime.” The Court reversed the judgment and sentence, concluding:

Fundamental error cannot be harmless error. See Daniels, 121 So.3d at 418; Haygood, 109 So.3d at 740. If a jury instruction defines a disputed element in a materially inaccurate way, "`whether the evidence of guilt is overwhelming or whether the prosecutor has or has not made an inaccurate instruction a feature of the prosecution's argument are not germane to whether the error is fundamental.'" Haygood, 109 So.3d at 741 (quoting Reed v. State, 837 So.2d 366, 369 (Fla. 2002)). The cases make clear that appellant's judgment and sentence must be reversed, and the matter be remanded for a new trial. "Inherent in a fair trial is the right to have the court `correctly and intelligently instruct the jury on the essential and material elements of the crime charged and required to be proven by competent evidence.'" Smith, 76 So.3d at 385 (quoting Gerds v. State, 64 So.2d 915, 916 (Fla.1953)).


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Finding an Attorney for Tampering with a Witness in Pinellas County, FL

Melinda Morris and Seth Shapiro are experienced criminal defense lawyers in St. Petersburg who represent alleged offenders throughout Pasco County, Pinellas County, Hillsborough County, Manatee County, and Sarasota County.

Call (727) 388-4736 or complete an online contact form to schedule a free, confidential consultation that will allow our attorneys to review your case and answer all of your legal questions.


This article was last updated on Friday, July 28, 2017.

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