As a Boston criminal defense lawyer, the charge of witness intimidation is often associated with a charge of domestic assault and battery in Massachusetts. In other words, it is very common for a domestic assault and battery incident to result in two criminal charges, one for assault and battery and the other for witness intimidation. A case from the Boston Municipal Court, Commonwealth vs. Anthony Bell, deals with the issues surrounding a witness intimidation charge.
Having being found guilty of open and gross lewdness, the defendant in this case allegedly leaned behind his attorney and said to the victim "I'll see you on the street". This statement was made after the defendant was found guilty, but before the sentencing stage.
In order for a complaint of witness intimidation to be put fourth, there is a standard of reasonable doubt which the Commonwealth is to meet. According to section 13B of Chapter 268 of Massachusetts General Laws, the prosecution must prove that the defendant:
1. Directly or indirectly, willfully threatened, attempted or caused harm to the witness. This harm can be defined as physical, emotional or financial harm or even property damage.
2. Promised anything of value or intimidated, harassed or misled the witness.
The "witness" in a witness intimidation charge refers to one who is either involved in the criminal proceeding or whose testimony is important in furthering the outcome of the case.
In the Bell case, the court ruled that the motion judge erred in dismissing the complaint and should have considered the context of the threat rather than the just the action itself.
A motion to dismiss is a type of motion in a criminal case where a defense lawyer argues that there is no probable cause for the charge to issue. This motion is heard by a judge and the standard for this motion is very deferential to the Commonwealth. This means that on a motion to dismiss, the Court must construe the facts in favor of the Commonwealth, assume everything in the report to be true, and determine if all the facts are true, would there be a violation of the criminal statute that the defendant was charged with.
According to the latest research by the National Institute of Justice, prosecutors in many jurisdictions have reported an increasing number of witness intimidation allegations. As a Massachusetts criminal lawyer, there is likely to be an increase in this charge being filed, particularly when a charge of a domestic assault and battery is brought.