A friend of mine was involved in a confrontation with a police officer in the UK, in which the officer basically accused him of assault. While the officer was arresting him, a bystander shouted something like, "Officer, you touched him first!" My friend immediately shouted back, "Come in and testify, there's two hundred pound in it for you." The man spoke with the head at the police station, the charges were dropped, and my friend paid the man £200 as promised.

In the US, it would seem that situations often arise in which potential witnesses refuse to take the time to testify (loose use of the term), and those falsely accused suffer. If an American accused of a crime offered money to a verifiable witness, would his or her testimony be admissible in a court? How about in a police station? Would it not be considered bribery?

  • 2
    I just want to mention that you do not have to touch someone for an assault to be committed. In the UK atleast.
    – Terry
    Sep 19, 2015 at 17:26

1 Answer 1


In many jurisdictions, there is a "witness fee" that one is required to pay, as a token recognition of the value of a person's time. Fact witnesses can often be obligated to appear and testify, for minimal compensation, but not against themselves. In federal cases, Rule 17(b) of the Rules of Criminal Procedure permit the defendant to apply to ask the government to pay the witness fee if they cannot afford it and the presence of the witness is necessary for an adequate defense.

The other side of a case (in this example, the prosecutor) could try to impeach the witness's testimony (i.e. make him seem less credible in the eyes of the jury) by demonstrating that the witness is a "professional witness" (i.e. fees from saying things in court are a major part of the witness's regular income). That doesn't seem to apply to the facts you've listed, where the witness just happened to be in that place and time to observe what happened and (assuming for this question) accurately testified as to what he saw.

Personally paying the police officer or judge for a favorable result is a different question with a different answer.

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