Every so often a lawyer movie or TV show focuses on witness or juror tampering. These depictions can leave out many important aspects, leaving viewers confused as to what these types of tampering really are. In the real world, tampering can be subtle and easily overlooked but it can have a dramatic impact on the result of a case. Tampering may not always be reported by the juror or witness. In some cases a juror or witness could be receiving a benefit or possibly be in fear about their situation. Here’s a little background on the two types of tampering:
Jury tampering can refer to several things. It can be an attempt to discredit a juror so they don’t get selected for service. It can refer to bribing or intimidating a juror connected to the case. It is these aspects that are most commonly articulated in movies and shows.
However, the most common way jury tampering comes up in the real world is through unauthorized contact by the attorneys or involved parties in the hope to influence a juror. Even if the juror isn’t influenced, they could be dismissed due to the improper contact.
In the US, if an individual attempts or physically forces a witness they can face up to 20 years of prison. They face 10 years if they only threaten physical force. By no means does it need to be successful. The law only requires that the individuals attempted to influence the witness.
A recent example, sorority at Howard University was recently accused of witness tampering. In this case the sorority was accused of forbidding the plaintiffs from eating in certain restaurants, wearing different types of clothing, etc. Even these seemingly small actions were enough to justify the complaint.
Tampering can be disastrous to a case both financially and with regards to justice. The same goes in most every trial. This is why it is imperative to establish a well thought out litigation strategy from the start of a dispute.