Creates tougher penalties for people who threaten witnesses
DOVER – People found guilty of intimidating witnesses to keep them from working with police or taking the stand at a trial could face up to 25 years in prison under a bill that cleared the Senate Thursday.
Senators voted 19-0 to send Senate Majority Whip Margaret Rose Henry’s legislation to the House for consideration.
“It’s gratifying to see the support for this bill from my fellow senators,” Henry said. “People who try to keep people from coming forward to report crimes or to testify at a trial isn’t just something you see in the movies, it is a serious problem and I hope this starts to address the issue.”
Under the bill, people who try to talk witnesses out of reporting crimes to police or testifying at trial would be found guilty of intimidation and could face up to eight years in prison.
However, if those efforts include a real or implied threat of violence against a potential witness, their family members or property, a person could be charged with aggravated intimidation, which carries a maximum 25-year prison term.
“Frequently, people will even call from jail to keep people from testifying,” Henry said. “I worked with the attorney general to develop penalties that will make people feel safer about testifying.”
Attorney General Beau Biden thanked the Senate for taking up the issue, saying he hopes it will encourage more people to come forward.
“I want to thank the Senate for its support of this important public safety proposal,” said Biden, who helped develop the bill. “We need witnesses to feel safe in coming forward so we can prosecute criminals and take them off our streets and, in strengthening the protections that witnesses receive, we will encourage more people to step forward and send a message that the criminal justice system will protect witnesses.”
###Related Topics: Criminal • Protecting Communities
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