California Penal Code 136.1 – Domestic Violence Charges
Often times when the defendant is facing criminal prosecution for a domestic violence charge in Los Angeles, the defendant may attempt to communicate with the victim with regard to the facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged incident. The victim may interpret the defendant’s actions as an attempt to intimidate or persuade the victim from not testifying. In California, preventing or dissuading a witness or a victim from testifying is punishable as a misdemeanor or a felony. See California Penal Code 136.1(a).
An additional count will be added pursuant to Penal Code 136.1 against the defendant alleging that the defendant knowingly and maliciously either attempted to prevent or dissuade or prevented or dissuaded the victim or witness from attending or giving testimony at trial in violation of California Penal Code section 136.1. It is in such instances, a defendant requires an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer to piece together the missing facts and show that the communication was not a malicious attempt to dissuade the victim. Evidence that the defendant was a family member who interceded in an effort to protect the witness or victim creates a presumption that the act was without malice. See California Penal Code 136.1(a)(3).
Elements of the Crime of Penal Code 136.1
When the defendant is charged in violation of California Penal Code 136.1(a) (b), the prosecution has the burden to prove that the Defendant maliciously tried to prevent or discourage the victim or witness from attending or giving testimony of a crime and that the defendant knew he/she was trying to prevent or discourage the witness or victim from testifying and intended to do so. A witness is described as a person who knows about the existence or nonexistence of facts relating to a crime, whose declaration under oath has been or may be received as evidence, or who has been served with a subpoena issued under the authority of any state or federal court. Where the act is accompanied by force or by an express or implied threat of force or violence, upon a witness or a victim or any third person or the property on any victim, witness, or third person, the defendant may face a felony charges punishable by imprisonment for two, three or four years. See California Penal Code 136.1(c)(1). If the Defendant is facing charges for violating California Penal Code 136.1, the Defendant needs a qualified Los Angeles criminal defense attorney to evaluate all the facts of the case, beyond the police report, as to provide an adequate defense as to why the communication was made.
Domestic Violence Restraining Order Protections
In domestic violence situation, the magistrate will issue a restraining order against the defendant on the day of arraignment, if one has not already been issued by the arresting officer. To ensure the safety of the victim and to prevent the defendant from attempting to intimidate or persuade the victim from not testifying, the restraining order will generally restrain the defendant from contacting the victim. An exception to this restraining order is that the defendant’s attorney and the attorney’s investigator may contact the victim or witnesses in an attempt to interview and communicate with them the facts of the case. Therefore, any attempt on the part of the defendant to communicate with the victim not only will be a violation of the restraining order but may be construed as an attempt to prevent or dissuade the victim from testifying. Therefore, it is important to hire a Los Angeles criminal defense firm to conduct the investigation so that the defendant’s communication is not construed as an attempt to dissuade the victim from testifying against the defendant in a domestic violence case.