So what exactly is "Witness Tampering" anyway?
What is Witness Tampering and what does that have to do with TMLT?

Good questions.  First, let's talk about what Witness Tampering and Commercial Bribery actually are.

Witness Tampering is a felony in the Texas Penal Code.  The idea behind the statute is that the integrity of the justice system is so important that witnesses should be able to tell the truth and the whole truth without fear of intimidation, coercion, threats, or injury.  The text of the statute follows:

§ 36.05. Tampering With Witness

 

(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 coerces a witness or 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).

 

(c) It is a defense to prosecution under Subsection (a)(5) that the benefit received was:

 

(1) reasonable restitution for damages suffered by the complaining witness as a result of the offense;  and

 

(2) a result of an agreement negotiated with the assistance or acquiescence of an attorney for the state who represented the state in the case.

 

(d) An offense under this section is a state jail felony.

 

Acts 1973, 63rd Leg., p. 883, ch. 399, § 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1974.  Amended by Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 900, § 1.01, eff. Sept. 1, 1994.

 

Amended by Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 721, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1997.


Commercial Bribery is also a felony.  The distinction is that Commercial Bribery involves the offer and/or acceptance of some benefit to a witness who is a fiduciary of a party to the legal case.  The statute follows:

§ 32.43. Commercial Bribery

 

(a) For purposes of this section:

 

(1) "Beneficiary" means a person for whom a fiduciary is acting.

 

(2) "Fiduciary" means:

 

(A) an agent or employee;

 

(B) a trustee, guardian, custodian, administrator, executor, conservator, receiver, or similar fiduciary;

 

(C) a lawyer, physician, accountant, appraiser, or other professional advisor;  or

 

(D) an officer, director, partner, manager, or other participant in the direction of the affairs of a corporation or association.

 

(b) A person who is a fiduciary commits an offense if, without the consent of his beneficiary, he intentionally or knowingly solicits, accepts, or agrees to accept any benefit from another person on agreement or understanding that the benefit will influence the conduct of the fiduciary in relation to the affairs of his beneficiary.

 

 (c) A person commits an offense if he offers, confers, or agrees to confer any benefit the acceptance of which is an offense under Subsection (b).

 

(d) An offense under this section is a state jail felony.

 

(e) In lieu of a fine that is authorized by Subsection (d), and in addition to the imprisonment that is authorized by that subsection, if the court finds that an individual who is a fiduciary gained a benefit through the commission of an offense under Subsection (b), the court may sentence the individual to pay a fine in an amount fixed by the court, not to exceed double the value of the benefit gained.  This subsection does not affect the application of Section 12.51(c) to an offense under this section committed by a corporation or association.

 

Acts 1973, 63rd Leg., p. 883, ch. 399, § 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1974.  Amended by Acts 1983, 68th Leg., p. 1942, ch. 357, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1983;  Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 900, § 1.01, eff. Sept. 1, 1994.


So, if you or I were to approach a known witness in a legal dispute and offer a benefit to the witness, or coerce the witness in any way, in order to have the witness change his testimony or withhold his testimony, then we would be guilty of a felony.  It's as simple as that.  So, are insurance companies or their lawyers allowed to get away with that?  Keep reading. 
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