The Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force executed search warrants at 5 locations across Los Angeles County and arrested a bevy of suspects. Of those who were arrested, 2 were Santa Clarita residents who were charged with human trafficking offenses, with one of the suspects also being charged with dissuading a witness.
Dissuading a witness is covered under California Penal Code 136.1 PC and is described as preventing or attempting to prevent any witness or victim(s) of a crime from reporting the crime or testifying in court. Instances of 136.1 PC are often depicted on t.v. shows and movies that have to do with organized crime. An individual witnesses a crime being committed, and one of the thugs tells the witness “You better keep yer mouth shut, or else …”
In the real world, dissuading a witness can occur in a wide variety of circumstances. For example, in a domestic violence case, if an abusive spouse threatens their victim with additional violence were they to speak out, the abuser could be charged with violating 136.1 PC. It should be noted that not all violations of 136.1 PC necessarily need to involve violence. Offering a witness or victim of a crime money or some other sort of bribe to not go to the police and/or testify would also fall under this law.
Like many California laws, whether or not 136.1 PC will be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony will depend greatly upon the circumstances of the case and the defendant’s prior criminal history.
Misdemeanor convictions carry the possible penalties of up to 1-year in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. However, misdemeanor convictions will also result in a 10-year ban on the defendant’s right to own or acquire a firearm.
Felony convictions carry the possible penalties of 16-months to 4-years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Because the conviction is a felony, the defendant will possibly face a stiffer ban on their ability to own or acquire a firearm than those who receive misdemeanor convictions.