If you read the news in Milwaukee, you have no doubt seen the countless stories over the past few years about the growing problem of witness intimidation. The stories focus mainly on defendants who have tried, sometimes successfully, to kill witnesses in their cases. While killing a witness is a rare event, many defendants are still being charged with intimidating a witness/victim in their own cases. This is a charge that can be confusing, especially because you don’t have to “intimidate” the witness to be charged with the crime.
Intimidation of a Witness/Victim – Jury Instructions
First, there are two separate intimidation statutes – one related to witnesses and one related to victims. Intimidation of a witness is found in Wis. Stat. Sec. 940.42 and 940.43. Intimidation of a victim is found in section 940.44 and 940.45 of the Wisconsin Statutes. Intimidating a victim is defined as:
- one who knowingly and maliciously prevents or dissuades (or who attempts to so prevent or dissuade) another person who has been the victim of any crime from making any report of the victimization to any peace officer or law enforcement agency
Intimidation of a witness is basically the same as intimidation of a victim, except that it applies to any witness. So what does “knowingly and maliciously” mean? Defined in Section 940.41, maliciously means “an intent to vex, annoy or injure in any way another person or to thwart or interfere in any manner with the orderly administration of justice.” Prosecutors in Milwaukee have been filing these charges using the theory that any interference with the orderly administration of justice constitutes intimidation.
What’s Their Evidence?
In most scenarios, the state’s best evidence is through jail phone calls. ALL jail calls are recorded. So if a defendant calls a witness or alleged victim and discusses the trial or possible testimony, that conversation could qualify as intimidation. Therefore, it is crucial to be aware that the state is always listening and their interpretation of your conversation could lead to new charges under one of these two laws.
If you have been charged with either of these two crimes, call us immediately. If your underlying case is a felony, you could be facing up to ten years in prison. Get the attorneys at Meyer Van Severen on your side today!