Intimidating a witness or victim
Related problems not directly addressed in this guide, each of which require separate analysis, include: Some of these related crime problems are covered in other guides in this series, all of which are listed at the end of this guide.
Although the problem of witness intimidation has special significance for prosecutors, it also has important implications for police.
Stop Snitching tee shirts have also appeared in retail outlets nationwide (Butterfield 2005).
†† In 2004, only 50 percent of violent crimes and 39 percent of property crimes were reported to police; however, only a very small portion of victims surveyed indicated that intimidation was the reason they did not report the crime.
Witness intimidation deprives investigators and prosecutors of critical evidence, often preventing suspects from being charged or causing cases to be abandoned or lost in court.
In addition, witness intimidation lowers public confidence in the criminal justice system and creates the perception that the criminal justice system cannot protect the citizenry.
Witness intimidation commonly takes two mutually-reinforcing forms. The prevalence of witness intimidation is difficult to quantify for many reasons.
First, crime is underreported based upon a number of factors that have nothing to do with witness intimidation.†† Second, where intimidation is successful, victims and witnesses report neither the initial crime nor the intimidation. Third, although victimization surveys and interviews with witnesses whose cases go to court are helpful, they capture only a subset of the larger population of witnesses.
They do not provide information on the experiences of the many witnesses who drop out of the process before a suspect is charged or a case goes to court. Finally, there has been no empirical research on the scope or specific characteristics of community-wide intimidation.
This is a significant problem that has many lawmakers considering tough penalties for intimidating a witness; in the state of , a felony.
In the United Kingdom, witness intimidation is covered by Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994: section 51.
Either way, they are deterred from offering relevant information that might assist police and prosecutors.