People v. Reynoza: Dissuading A Witness
Many people find themselves charged with improper crimes due to the prosecutor misconstruing or attempting to broaden the definition of certain legal language to convict someone of something when they are grasping at straws to find a sufficient charge. The case of People v. Reynoza is such a case where a defendant in a firearms possession case who had already been charged was charged with dissuading a witness from testifying to prevent charges from being brought.
A jury found Reynoza guilty of dissuading a witness under Penal Code section 136.1(b)(2). The section punishes anyone from dissuading a witness to prevent a criminal complaint from being brought. The alleged dissuasion revolved around an illegal firearm possession case where charges had already been brought against Mr. Reynoza. In this case, the appellate court found that there was insufficient evidence to convict Mr. Reynoza for dissuading a witness since charges had already been filed against him—thus, he could not have legally dissuaded the witness to prevent a complaint from being filed.
Dissuading A Witness: Defendant Must Be Unaware of Criminal Complaint
Here, the key issue for discussion is the interpretation of the language in the statute and how it applies to the instant case facts. The court found that for someone to be convicted of dissuading a witness, the defendant must be unaware that a criminal complaint has been filed or have actual knowledge that one has not been filed. Here, Mr. Reynoza had made several court appearances on his case and was, therefore, presumed to have knowledge that a criminal complaint had been filed against him.
The court also noted that it may be possible to dissuade a witness from testifying to prevent additional or amended charges from being brought, but the specific facts of the case would need to indicate that the People were considering such action or it was reasonable that the witness’s testimony or cooperation could lead to such charges.
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