Tampering with Witness: Texas Penal Code §36.05

Texas Criminal Law

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The Texas Tampering with Witness law makes it illegal in the state of Texas to try to get a witness to not testify or testify falsely by means of a bribe or coercion.

The Tampering with Witness law also gives police the right to arrest the witness if they believe the witness accepted or agreed to accept any benefit to testify falsely or to not testify at all.

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The Texas legislature codified this criminal offense in Texas Penal Code Section 36.05. The legislature did not update this law in 2023. In fact, this law has not been amended since 2013.

The Penal Code codifies the Texas Tampering with Witness law under Title 8 “Offenses Against Public Administration,” Chapter 36 “Bribery And Corrupt Influence.” Learn more about the Texas offense of Tampering with Witness below.

What is the current Texas law about Tampering with Witness?

The current Texas law defines the offense of Tampering with Witness in Penal Code Section §36.05 as follows:[1]

(a) A person commits an offense if, with intent to influence the witness, he offers, confers, or agrees to confer any benefit on a witness or prospective witness in an official proceeding, or he coerces a witness or a prospective witness in an official proceeding:

(1) to testify falsely;

(2) to withhold any testimony, information, document, or thing;

(3) to elude legal process summoning him to testify or supply evidence;

(4) to absent himself from an official proceeding to which he has been legally summoned; or

(5) to abstain from, discontinue, or delay the prosecution of another.

(b) A witness or prospective witness in an official proceeding commits an offense if he knowingly solicits, accepts, or agrees to accept any benefit on the representation or understanding that he will do any of the things specified in Subsection (a).

How can I be charged with a Tampering with Witness offense in Texas?

You can be charged with Tampering with Witness in Texas if the state’s attorneys believe that each of the elements of 36.05(a) as described in the section above have been met. If you received some kind of compensation to “abstain from, discontinue, or delay the prosecution of” someone else, then you can argue that as a defense to prosecution, so long as the the compensation or benefit was the result of an agreement negotiated with an attorney for the state.[2]

What is the statute of limitation for Tampering with Witness in Texas?

Tampering with Witness offenses have a three-year limitations period.[3]

What is the penalty for a Texas Tampering with Witness offense?

A conviction for Tampering with Witness in Texas is punished as a Felony of the Third Degree,[4] with a maximum possible fine under Texas state law of up to $10,000 and prison time of up to 10 years, unless one of the following exceptions apply. If the official proceeding is part of the prosecution of a criminal case then an offense under this section will be the same category as the most serious offense charged in the case.[5]

If the most serious offense is a Capital Felony, then a conviction for Tampering with Witness in Texas is punished as a Felony of the First Degree,[6] with a maximum possible fine under Texas state law of up to $10,000 and prison time of up to 99 years. Special punishment rules apply to family violence cases.[7] Learn about the differences between grades of felonies and misdemeanors here.

Can you get probation for Tampering with Witness in Texas?

The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure allows both judges and juries to grant probation for Tampering with Witness, and judges are also allowed to accept deferred adjudication plea deals.[8]

Note, however, that no matter the offense, neither judges nor juries may recommend community supervision for any suspended sentence of over 10 years.[9] Also, judges may not grant community supervision after a conviction if (1) the defendant used or exhibited a deadly weapon during the commission of the felony or immediate flight thereafter and (2) the defendant used or exhibited the deadly weapon himself or was a party to the offense and knew that a deadly weapon would be used or exhibited.[10]

What level of crime is Tampering with Witness in Texas?

The Penal Code classifies Tampering with Witness as third degree felony by default, but the classification level varies depending on the circumstances.

Learn more about the penalty range for this offense in the section above.


^1. Texas Penal Code §36.05. This law is current as of the 88th Legislature Regular Session.^2. Texas Penal Code §36.05(c)^3. See Code of Criminal Procedure 12.01(9)^4. Texas Penal Code §36.05(d)^5. Texas Penal Code §36.05(d)^6. Texas Penal Code §36.05(e)^7. See Texas Penal Code §36.05(e-1)

Notwithstanding Subsection (d), if the underlying official proceeding involves family violence, as defined by Section 71.004, Family Code, an offense under this section is the greater of:

(1) a felony of the third degree; or

(2) the most serious offense charged in the criminal case.

Also see Texas Penal Code §36.05(e-2)^8. See Chapter 42, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Art. 42A.054, Art. 42A.056, Art. 42A.102 .^9. Art. 42A.053(c), Texas Code of Criminal Procedure^10. Art. 42A.054(b), Texas Code of Criminal Procedure


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