(a) The Legislature supports and affirms the constitutional right of every person to communicate on any subject. This section is intended to preserve the right of every accused person to a fair trial, the right of the people to due process of law, and the integrity of judicial proceedings. This section is not intended to prevent any person from disseminating any information or opinion.
The Legislature hereby finds and declares that the disclosure for valuable consideration of information relating to crimes by prospective witnesses can cause the loss of credible evidence in criminal trials and threatens to erode the reliability of verdicts.
The Legislature further finds and declares that the disclosure for valuable consideration of information relating to crimes by prospective witnesses creates an appearance of injustice that is destructive of public confidence.
(b) A person who is a witness to an event or occurrence that he or she knows is a crime or who has personal knowledge of facts that he or she knows or reasonably should know may require that person to be called as a witness in a criminal prosecution shall not accept or receive, directly or indirectly, any money or its equivalent in consideration for providing information obtained as a result of witnessing the event or occurrence or having personal knowledge of the facts.
(c) A person who is a witness to an event or occurrence that he or she reasonably should know is a crime shall not accept or receive, directly or indirectly, any money or its equivalent in consideration for providing information obtained as a result of his or her witnessing the event or occurrence.
(d) The Attorney General or the district attorney of the county in which an alleged violation of subdivision (c) occurs may institute a civil proceeding. Where a final judgment is rendered in the civil proceeding, the defendant shall be punished for the violation of subdivision (c) by a fine equal to 150 percent of the amount received or contracted for by the person.
(e) A violation of subdivision (b) is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months in a county jail, a fine not exceeding three times the amount of compensation requested, accepted, or received, or both the imprisonment and fine.
(f) This section does not apply if more than one year has elapsed from the date of any criminal act related to the information that is provided under subdivision (b) or (c) unless prosecution has commenced for that criminal act. If prosecution has commenced, this section shall remain applicable until the final judgment in the action.
(g) This section does not apply to any of the following circumstances:
(1) Lawful compensation paid to expert witnesses, investigators, employees, or agents by a prosecutor, law enforcement agency, or an attorney employed to represent a person in a criminal matter.
(2) Lawful compensation provided to an informant by a prosecutor or law enforcement agency.
(3) Compensation paid to a publisher, editor, reporter, writer, or other person connected with or employed by a newspaper, magazine, or other publication or a television or radio news reporter or other person connected with a television or radio station, for disclosing information obtained in the ordinary course of business.
(4) Statutorily authorized rewards offered by governmental agencies or private reward programs offered by victims of crimes for information leading to the arrest and conviction of specified offenders.
(5) Lawful compensation provided to a witness participating in the Witness Relocation and Assistance Program established pursuant to Title 7.5 (commencing with Section 14020) of Part 4.
(h) For purposes of this section, “information” does not include a photograph, videotape, audiotape, or any other direct recording of an event or occurrence.
(i) For purposes of this section, “victims of crimes” shall be construed in a manner consistent with Section 28 of Article I of the California Constitution, and shall include victims, as defined in subdivision (3) of Section 136.
(Amended (as amended by Stats. 2003, Ch. 62, Sec. 223) by Stats. 2015, Ch. 303, Sec. 384. (AB 731) Effective January 1, 2016.)
Last modified: October 25, 2018