California Penal Code Section 140

Penal Code Section 140 provides in relevant part: "(a) . . . Every person who willfully uses force or threatens to use force or violence upon the person of a witness to, or a victim of, a crime or any other person, or to take, damage, or destroy any property of any witness, victim, or any other person, because the witness, victim, or other person has provided any assistance or information to a law enforcement officer, or to a public prosecutor in a criminal proceeding or juvenile court proceeding, shall be punished . . . ." In United States v. Vasquez (7th Cir. 1985) 772 F.2d 1348, the Seventh Circuit considered the constitutionality of a federal statute that is similar to section 140: "A threat to break a person's knees or pulverize his automobile as punishment for his having given information to the government is a statement of intention rather than an idea or opinion and is not part of the marketplace of ideas. " 'Cases that express concern with the constitutionality of general statutes punishing threats or intimidation do so because of the potential application of such statutes to "threats" that contain ideas or advocacy, such as a "threat" to picket an organization if it does not yield to a demand to take some social or political action. The statute at issue in this case is not a prohibition of threats generally and hence does not exploit the ambiguity of such words as threat, intimidate, and coerce; the statute is confined to threats to retaliate forcibly against government witnesses and informants. The statute's limited scope takes it out of the realm of social or political conflict where threats to engage in behavior that may be unlawful may nevertheless be part of the marketplace of ideas, broadly conceived to embrace the rough competition that is so much a staple of political discourse. ' " (Vasquez, supra, 772 F.2d at p. 1357.)