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Witness Protection

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"Ah well, beats doing witless protection."
Rifftrax, referring to fighting The Joker

The United States Department of Justice has a Witness Protection Program, in which a person who has given significant information about someone who is wanted for crimes is given a new identity in a new location. It may be used in the case of an innocent party who testified against, say, a member of The Mafia, but is often used to protect a member of organized crime who has done a Heel–Face Turn and testified for the government in court. To keep said witness from becoming either part of the concrete used to rebuild Exit 72 on the New Jersey Turnpike, or the main ingredient in Bark-O Dog Food, the Federal government provides them with a new place to live and a new identity.

This operation will be very expensive, and the party who has been granted relocation will be subject to significant restrictions. Usually, they will not be allowed contact with anyone from their past, may be required to change occupations, or have to do other things to protect their new identity from discovery by those who might harm them. If they cause their cover to be broken, it is extremely likely they will not receive a new one.

Once the person goes in, it's basically a one-way trip; there is no connection between them and their previous life. If they are wanted for crimes or leave behind debts prior to going into the program, they will not be reachable. The Justice Department has even told the IRS to get lost for the collection of unpaid taxes by someone who went into the program. So far, not a single person who has entered the US Federal Witness Protection program and followed all the rules properly has ever been killed (although the same cannot be said for people who don't follow the rules).

This idea can be used in fiction in a number of ways:

  • If the protagonist goes into witness protection, expect focus on the hardships of the program. Frequently they were an innocent who has had to turn their life upside down because of someone else who is a threat to them; often they lost a loved one to the people they had to run away from (which may be why they were testifying in the first place).
  • If it's someone the protagonist knows, it's a convenient way to have them Put on a Bus and lose all contact with the rest of the cast without actually killing them. Similarly, you can expect copious Angst about losing someone they cared about to witness protection (like a boyfriend or girlfriend losing their lover who follows his or her family into the program).
  • It can also be approached from the other end: the protagonists start digging into someone's background, discover that it looks suspiciously fabricated and dig deeper under the assumption that they're a bad egg, and find themselves on the wrong end of a "back off" lecture from a US Marshal.
  • The protectee might just blow the whole thing off and Ditch the Bodyguards, leading to exactly the kind of dangerous escapades everyone was trying to avoid in the first place.

Some states provide a similar (but less comprehensive, obviously) program for witnesses to state crimes. Other countries also have similar programs.

If someone starts over themselves, without government assistance, they are Starting a New Life.

If, despite everything, the bad guys still manage to find the person in question, then we have a Witless Protection Program.

A number of films have used the premise of witness protection, either as a story Ripped from the Headlines, being Based on a True Story, or total fiction. The trope can be used dramatically, or for comedy.

Subtrope of Sent Into Hiding.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Case Closed: FBI agent Jodie Starling grew up in Witness Protection. She offered it to Ai Haibara as well, but was turned down.

    Comic Books 
  • In Supergirl story arc The Strange Revenge of Lena Luthor, Linda Danvers' co-worker Greg Gilbert goes into Witness Protection in exchange for giving information about mobster Sal's illegal gaming parlors.
  • Manhunter: Kate Spencer happens to recognize a waiter as a small-time "tech guy" for various supervillains she'd put away years ago; he'd been given a new identity after he gave evidence on the villains he'd worked for. She blackmails him into working with her. (Note that the guy was still living in the same city where he'd been arrested and tried, while in real life people are moved to an entirely new location.)

    Fan Works 
  • Witness (Good Neighbors) kicks off with Midoriya Izuku being placed into protection after one of his coworkers is murdered, as he was spotted trying to save the poor man's life.

    Film — Animated 
  • A similar program re-locates superheroes who reveal themselves in The Incredibles.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Bird on a Wire starts with the witness's ex-girlfriend accidentally meeting him, recognizing him and blowing his cover. After 15 years of hiding and no less than 3 false identities. While on the run, they revisit his previous lives. The metaphor in the title and the theme song means that the witness that touches his previous life may die like a bird that touches two live wires.
  • Breaking Point (1976) - a man who goes into Witness Protection decides to respond when criminals murder the boyfriend his sister had to leave behind.
  • Bullitt starts off with the titular cop being assigned to one of these. It's his team's failure to keep the "witness" from getting killed that drives the plot for the rest of the film.
  • In Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle the villain steals a copy of the list of people currently in the witness protection program. As part of the Angels' investigation it's revealed that Dylan is on the list having turned in evidence against her former boyfriend, a member of the Irish mob who she saw murdering someone.
  • The parents of Vanilla Ice's Love Interest in Cool as Ice are both under witness protection. The father was a cop who testified against his partner, and he and his pregnant wife were relocated so the partner's associates couldn't find him. However, in this film, it seems that once you've been set up with a new identity, the Feds leave you to your own devices, as neither of the parents even attempt to contact anyone for help when said associates show up on their front door.
  • Did You Hear About the Morgans??, a film with Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant, is about a Manhattan couple who witness a murder, and are sent to Wyoming for witness protection.
  • Donnie Brasco went into this after the events detailed in the movie. Al Pacino's character in Real Life was very surprised and very, very pissed when "Donnie" walked into the courtroom to testify under his real name, FBI agent Joseph D. Pistone. Eventually the agent was able to return to his normal life after the Feds managed to get the Mob to call off the hit on him.
  • Eraser. Arnold Schwarzenegger is the titular US Marshal whose job it is to make those in the federal Witness Protection Program disappear, as far as the world of the witness is concerned.
  • The titular character in Fresh gets himself and his sister into this program, and more importantly, out of the Crapsack World of his crime-ridden ghetto. What this barely-teenaged boy isn't telling the cops is that he engineered all the crimes he witnessed himself to Pay Evil unto Evil.
  • Goodfellas: Organized crime member goes into Witness Protection after testifying against his former associates. The last lines are him whining about how it's such a comedown, never mind all the disgusting things he did as a wiseguy. Ironically, the wiseguy the movie was based on (Henry Hill) invalidated his Witness Protection because he couldn't resist bragging about being the guy in the movie.
  • Hide In Plain Sight - A man is trying to find his children, who went with their mother and step-father after his ex-wife's new husband leaves organized crime and goes into Witness Protection.
  • Lethal Weapon 2 - Cops have to watch and protect a guy who ripped millions off from the mob before he testifies, then gets to disappear into Witness Protection with the money he swiped.
  • Made Men begins with James Belushi's character, a fast talking Con Man, in witness protection after informing on The Syndicate he once worked for. Then one day out of the blue he gets a mysterious call warning him that his old friends have learned where he is and are coming after him, and they turn out to only be the start of his problems, as various people and groups with grudges against him come out of the woodwork for revenge against him. Or the money he stole from the Syndicate. Or both.
  • In the film Mobsters and Mormons a family of three (with mob/mafia connections) is relocated to Utah. Hilarity ensues as they try to fit in, and deal with the overly friendly neighbors.
  • My Blue Heaven has Steve Martin as Vinnie Antonelli, a former New York mobster who enters Witness Protection and is relocated to a California suburb. Vinnie hates California (but not as much as his wife, who quickly leaves him) and is a constant PITA for his handler Barney (Rick Moranis): Vinnie finds that a lot of his former associates who also entered Witness Protection have been relocated to the same place and they start running scams again because every one of them finds suburban life dull; Barney has to pull the Federal Agent card to get Vinnie out of jail when he inevitably gets arrested. Vinnie also evades Barney when they go back to New York so Vinnie can testify; this winds up almost getting Vinnie killed. As you might guess from the stars, all of this is played for laughs, and by the end of the movie Vinnie and Barney are best friends (both of them are remarried, and Vinnie seems happy enough to be in California by then).
  • Combined with Witless Protection Program and Cannot Keep a Secret, this is the main premise of Our Lips Are Sealed, a DTV-movie starring the Olsen Twins. To go into greater detail:
    • Mary-Kate (playing Maddie Parker) and Ashley (playing Abby Parker) witness a jewel heist at a museum in their hometown. Rightfully worried that the criminals will come after them, the FBI places the twins and their parents in the Witness Protection Program, where the Parkers are eventually moved to Sydney, Australia.
    • Prior to being placed in Australia, the Parkers had been placed in pretty much every single part of the United States and then to every single geographic location in the world (with the sole exception of Australia). The reason for the Parkers moving to so many different places is due to the twins being (self-admittedly) "blabbermouths," which led to them blowing their cover. By the time they and their parents were placed in Australia, the FBI had gotten so fed up with constantly having to relocate the Parkers that they delivered this ultimatum: if Abby and Maddie slip up this time, the FBI will wash their hands of the Parkers and leave them for dead.
    • After the Parkers are placed in Australia, the girls actually do a pretty good job of keeping their mouths about their family being in the Witness Protection Program and the rest of movie is mostly just about them adjusting to Australian culture (at one point, the family adopts a baby kangaroo as their pet). The criminals do eventually find them, but they're apprehended by the authorities and the Parkers are given the chance to go back home to America now that they're no longer in danger. However, having gotten used to their lives in Australia, the girls want to stay and reveal their true identities to their friends.
  • Sister Act - After witnessing a mob hit, a singer is placed in witness protection in a convent. Things get complicated when her work in the choir leads to her being filmed on TV... or the fact that there's a cop on the take who has been giving the mob the location of witnesses, leading to at least one murder. The leak is plugged, but not before Dolores is found by the mob and kidnapped.
  • Snakes on a Plane - The Hawaiian mob boss puts said snakes on said plane to kill a witness, because he'd "Tried everything else!"
  • In Stargate: Continuum, when a time-displaced SG-1 ends up on an alternate Earth where the Stargate Program never existed and have no way to return to their own timeline, the US Government places them in Witness Protection once they figure out what's going on. This is not out of concern for their safety, but out of the fact that they need fabricated identities in order to not conflict with their alternate timeline selves.
  • In the end of We're the Millers, the protagonists end up in witness protection, still posing as a family.
  • Spoofed in Witless Protection, with Larry the Cable Guy.

  • By Any Other Name (2013) is about a girl struggling to adjust to life under a new identity in witness protection.
  • In Dont Look Behind You April Corrigan and her family are placed in the program after her father testifies against a notorious drug dealer.
  • One Tim Dorsey novel featured a man in Witness Protection who reported a possible lead to a kidnapping and was promptly lionized by the press against his wishes when it played out. The people he was hiding from recognized him in the news and came after him and his son.
  • Hush by Jacqueline Woodson is about Toswiah Green, a girl who ends up in witness protection after her father testifies against a criminal and his life is in danger.
  • The premise of I Am the Cheese. The protagonist learns about it as a young teenager and the bad guys manage to kill his parents anyways, causing him to go crazy and have a hallucinatory Vision Quest that comprises about half of the book.
  • Although done under the CIA instead of the DoJ, in the Jack Ryan novels, several Soviet defectors are given new identities.
    • The captain of the Red October, for example, goes from "Marko Ramius" to "Mark Ramsey", with Ryan internally reasoning that the names are similar so Ramius is more likely to remember his cover identity.
    • Also happens in Without Remorse, to the man who would become John Clark. He gets to keep a love interest.
  • The Speed of Sound: In The Sound of Echoes, Caitlin McCloskey arranges for her husband and kids to go into hiding in Harvey, North Dakota with a Briefcase Full of Money and the new last name Montgomery to protect them when she wages war on the American Heritage Foundation.
  • In The Truth, Mr Slant mentions having to arrange witness protection for a parrot, currently living under a false identity as a large budgerigar.
  • This is key to Eoin Colfer's WARP series. W.A.R.P. is actually "Witness Anonymous Relocation Program," which has the fantastic premise of hiding its subjects with the use of time travel to displace them in time. Thing is, time travel has a lot of problems that haven't really been hashed out and everything ends up falling apart.
  • Roland Smith wrote a two-part series, Zachs Lie (2003) and Jack's Run (2007), in which teenager Jack Osborne's family is forced to enter the witness protection program after his father agrees to testify against a crime boss he formerly worked for, and who is still very much active. Part 1 ends with the family having to relocate again when their initial set of identities are discovered by the crime boss; by the end of book 2, said crime boss has been successfully arrested, allowing them to return to their normal lives.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In 24, Jonas Hodges is supposed to be sent into witness protection - but an assassin gets to him first.
  • Barney Miller: In "Identity" the cops had to deal with a serial reoffender in the program that was being held by the officers. His federal minder showed up and got him off (it was relatively minor offenses), and delivered a powerful threat to him.
    One more time, and we're transferring you to Kansas. You know what's in Kansas? Wheat.
  • Blue Bloods: In "Power Players," ADA Erin Reagan and her investigator Alex McBride have to bring a witness out of Witness Protection to testify against a mob boss in a murder trial.
  • Used in Bones, Brennan's parents went into it, as did the man that killed her mother.
    • The man that killed Christian was in Witness Protection, but got kicked out after the murder was revealed. The Brennan family wasn't in Witness Protection. They went on the run after Max and Christina found evidence of FBI agents killing an honest agent and framing a Civil Rights Activist during a bank robbery. One of the corrupt agents later became Booth's boss's boss. He used that position to track Bones and Booth's attempts to find Max, murder the man that murdered Christina (so he couldn't rat out the corrupt agents), and threaten Russ and Bones. Max killed him, but was later found not guilty
  • In the television show Cape Wrath, the protagonists are moved to a town seemingly inhabited solely by those in witness protection, and the secrets they all hold serve to be an important plot device.
  • In the season 1 finale of Castle, the victim is a plastic surgeon who did a face alteration on a mob witness going into protection. Castle and Beckett have to convince the FBI to let them have access to the witness, and they eventually end up effectively using the witness as bait to catch the killer.
  • Criminal Minds:
    • Hotch's exwife Haley and son Jack have to go into the program when he's being targeted by the Boston Reaper. The Reaper locates the marshal handling the case, tortures him, finds their new number on the man's cell phone, lures them out of hiding, and kills Haley.
    • The episode "Third Life" had it turn out that one of the victims was in witness protection, along with her father, an ex-mob enforcer. Who goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge once he discovers where his daughter is being held. They're moved again at the end of the episode. Seasons later, the daughter resurfaces; she'd willingly left the program and become an assassin. Interestingly, the family is only referred to by the names they'd used in "Third Life," despite those being aliases (not wanting to reveal the father's new identity, sure, but they never even reveal the daughter's original name).
    • This is the In-Universe reason given for Hotch's departure from the team early in season 12, as Dr. Scratch, the current Big Bad, had started stalking his son.note 
  • Flack has to work with a witness he earlier had put into witness protection in one CSI: NY episode, and prevent the scenario from going down the tubes completely since the young man had already killed someone by the time Flack caught back up with him.
  • Daredevil (2015): Sgt. Brett Mahoney puts Karen Page under police protection in a hotel after the Blacksmith's men shoot at her in her apartment. The police protection only ends up being a patrol car parked outside, and Karen ends up slipping out to meet with Frank Castle through the parking garage. After the Blacksmith's boat is blown up, Brett mentions to Karen that the cops assigned to protect her have been reassigned to crossing guard duty in Yonkers (the city just north of the Bronx).
  • DCI Banks: In "The Buried", Banks and his team are baffled when a murder victim seems to have no history before five years ago. He turns out to be in the witness protection program. His new location was uncovered when he was photographed running a marathon in his new identity and the photo ran in the newspaper.
  • Delocated is a parody Reality Show about a man who is in the witness protection program. He wears a ski mask and voice harmonizer at all times to hide his identity, despite having his entire life filmed for television. The Russian mob is also still targeting him the entire time.
  • The Dukes of Hazzard: One episode featured a newcomer whose land Boss Hogg wanted to buy. The problem was that the newcomer was under the trope.
  • Gary goes into witness protection in the Early Edition episode "In Gary We Trust".
  • One episode of Flashpoint had a little girl and her parents go into the Witness Protection program after the girl had seen a group of men murdering her friend's family (including her friend) when she was at a sleepover. However, despite remaining hidden for months, the killers (themselves dirty cops) managed to find them because they bribed a cop into telling their location.
  • Rose's recurring boyfriend in The Golden Girls was in witness protection. He thought he was free when it was announced that the guy who was after him was dead, but he turned up alive and Miles had to leave to take a new identity. Later, he returned because he was desperate to see Rose again, and in the process, the other guy is arrested, freeing him for real.
  • In Disney comedy Gone Are the Dayes the family of 4 witnessed a murder in a restaurant and the kids blabbed they've seen gangsters' faces. They have no choice, but to testify at the trial. FBI's solution: relocate them to a remote town and change their lifestyle completely. Next problem: in this new life they quickly end up becoming famous as local political activists and appear on TV. FBI relocates them again, yet they attract attention again.
  • The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries episode, "Creatures Who Came On Sunday", revolves around a secret installation of the Federal Witness Protection Program. The Hardys soon blow all that out of the water, endangering quite a few people, and barely get off with a lecture at the end — though in the course of the episode, they get three "back-off" speeches, including one from the Big Bad trying to track a witness down.
  • One of the victims of the week in an early House episode is a mobster who is being prepped for this. This revelation enables that episode's "Eureka!" Moment.
  • House of Cards (US): Lucas Goodwin, incarcerated by Frank Underwood's manipulations, manages to get himself into a program with information on the Armenian mob. But it's merely to get himself out of jail, since Lucas immediately sneaks his way to Heather Dunbar's campaign trying to convince someone that he's not crazy. That fails, so Lucas subsequently tries to assassinate Frank at a rally, only succeeding in crippling Frank and killing one Secret Service agent before being gunned down himself.
  • The TV show In Plain Sight features U.S. Marshals involved in this program and the various plights of their charges.
  • A witness to a crime doesn't want to testify because they are in witness protection in an episode of JAG.
  • On Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, ADA Alex Cabot is put into Witness Protection when she is targeted for prosecuting a drug cartel. She returns briefly to testify against her would-be assassin then returns to the program.
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent: In the episode "The Good Child" a couple who testified against the mob a few years previously were placed in witness protection and moved from Buffalo to NYC. When they're murdered anyway the mob family are the chief suspects but innocent. They were actually murdered by their stepdaughter's greedy birth parents.
  • Lilyhammer: Protagonist Frank Tagliano's boss is murdered, and his new boss betrays him. Disgruntled, Tagliano turns in his boss and gets enrolled into witness protection. Tagliano remembers Norway to be peaceful and beautiful from having watched the Lillehammer '94 winter olympics on TV, so he requests to be transferred there. Hilarity Ensues as Tagliano basically ends up becoming a tough, ruthless mobster surrounded by polite, soft-spoken people.
  • Line of Duty: Jo Davidson has been put inside witness protection by the end of the show's finale, where she appears happy living in the country with her dog and new girlfriend.
  • MacGyver (1985) helped get someone into witness protection. Two episodes deal with this character, "The Eraser" and "Back from the Dead".
  • The Magician: In "Illusion in Terror", Tony's Girl of the Week turns out to be in witness protection. After her photo appears in the paper, syndicate hitmen turn up looking to kill her.
  • The Mentalist: In "Red Sauce", the CBI's murder investigation gets a lot more complicated when the victim, who worked at a local video arcade, turns out to be a mob informant in witness protection.
  • In the Monk episode "Mr. Monk Gets Cabin Fever", Adrian Monk accidentally stumbles upon a Chinese gangland murder while walking around Chinatown, and is forced to enter protective custody in the worst of places (for Monk)... nature! Specifically, a remote cabin deep in the woods.
  • At the end of the Murdoch Mysteries episode "The Black Hand", Murdoch explains to Anna Fulford that she needs to leave Toronto because the Black Hand has a contract on her for the theft of counterfeit money her fiancé committed. He gives her a manila envelope with the details of a new life and background for her, telling her they cannot have further contact. She doesn't stay gone, but returns to work as a librarian in Toronto in the two-parter "Stroll on the Wild Side", and Murdoch is aghast when he recognizes her. Eventually, the Black Hand proves to be back in the person of Mr. Falcone, and she has to disappear more permanently this time.
  • My Name Is Earl
    • Darnell "Crabman" Turner is in this, and as soon as he gets spotted on TV by the entire country, he gets lifted with his family and vanishes.
    • In a case of artistic license, Joy manipulates the system by blowing her family's cover numerous times until she gets to live the life she's always wanted (a trophy wife in a gated community). She soon finds it to be a case of Be Careful What You Wish For, because with her trailer trash past, she has a tough time fitting in with the other women.
  • A suspect in a murder investigation is about to enter witness protection in the NCIS episode "Nine Lives".
  • An old boyfriend of Juliet's is in the program in the Psych episode "A Very Juliet Episode".
  • The victim in the Rizzoli & Isles episode "Don't Stop Dancing, Girl" was in witness protection, but someone from her past hunted her down.
  • Shortland Street had Justine Jones faking her death and going off to witness protection in Sydney so she could testify against dodgy pharmaceutical company Scott Spear. Her status ends up blown by Brooke Freeman, but it's of no matter as the Whitetails end up giving themselves away.
  • In Smallville, Chloe goes into witness protection and to a safe house as she is going to testify against Lionel Luthor. She is promptly blown into a million pieces upon arrival.note 
  • On Sons of Anarchy, the gang is forced to intimidate a young girl in Witness Protection to keep her from testifying against the gang. One group of bikers wants to kill her outright, the other considers that too much, and it nearly ends in a shootout.
  • Witness protection is mentioned frequently in The Sopranos.
    • While looking at colleges with his daughter, Tony Soprano comes across a former member of the Mob who'd turned State's Evidence and gone into the witness protection program. He had since been kicked out of the program due to his numerous violations, so when he recognizes Tony he has no protection or options beyond what he can scrounge up himself. His plan to kill Tony is botched when a bunch of witnesses are in the area, and next he tries to get some local druggies to kill Tony for him, but they refuse. Tony catches up to him soon afterwards and garrotes him to death.
    • When Janice Soprano kills her fiancé Richie Aprile after he hits her, completely coincidental to Tony having also decided to kill Richie for plotting against him, they have to make his body disappear because he was a Captain and his known death would have huge ripple effects. To explain his disappearance, and to deflect the blame from himself, Tony says that Richie had entered the witness protection program. This excuse is used again several times later in the series to explain mob disappearances that don't leave a body behind, most notably Salvatore "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero (who, ironically, really was an FBI informant).
    • Tony and Christopher Moltisanti are both given the option to enter the program by the FBI in the hopes of getting them to flip on their compatriots. Tony when he learns that his mother and uncle are conspiring to kill him, and Chris when he learns that his fiancée is already cooperating with the FBI. Tony refuses the offer outright, but Chris is tempted by what he sees as the opportunity to get out of his stalled Mafia career and really dig into his aspiring screenwriting career. Chris also chooses not to leave the Mafia, and turns his fiancee over to be executed for her government cooperation.
  • Starsky & Hutch: In "Targets Without A Badge", Starsky finds a woman who crosses his path oddly familiar; it develops that she's a friend from childhood, supposedly dead in a car crash, who had actually gone into witness protection with her parents.
  • There's a Veronica Mars episode where Keith is hired to track someone down; he eventually figures out that his target is in witness protection and his clients are Russian mobsters.
  • In Warehouse 13, it's eventually revealed that Claudia's on-again, off-again boyfriend Todd is in witness protection; between this and the Masquerade surrounding the Warehouse, they each spend most of an episode being incredibly suspicious of the other until they simultaneously confront each other and realize that neither one actually knows anything about the other's secrets. Once they learn about their respective secrets, Todd immediately gets Put on a Bus with yet another new identity.
  • White Collar:
    • Ellen, an old friend of Neal's, is revealed to be in witness protection in the season three finale.
    • Then in the fourth season, it's revealed that Neal himself grew up in Witness Protection, along with his mother and Ellen.
  • Wild Bill: "Nothing Behind the Curtain" involves a hitman suspected of committing new murders who got into protection as a result of helping take down his gang. However, given this the police initially can't find him nor get his location from the agency in charge of this. It's revealed even they don't know-he'd broken contact with them years earlier to escape another hitman which his gang sent after him, going underground completely.
  • Wiseguy. Undercover cop John Henry Raglin advises a participant in the Garment Industry case to go into the Witness Protection Program. When she asks Raglin (who's posing as a mob enforcer) how come he knows so much about it, Raglin jokes, "Half my relatives are in it."
  • The Wire:
    • The complete and total failure of Baltimore's local witness protection program is a major, recurring plot point.
      • The very first episode starts (cold open aside) with the murder trial of D'Angelo Barksdale, where one of two eyewitnesses perjures herself at the last minute, clearly having been intimidated by D'Angelo's uncle's men. The episode ends with D'Angelo finding the body of William Gant, the other witness, dead in the street—killed by the Barksdale Organization muscle, specifically Bird. Bringing down the people who shot Gant becomes a major driver of the first season.
      • Also in Season 1, Wallace agrees to testify against the Barksdale gang, but the best that the Major Crimes Unit can do is for Cedric Daniels to drop him off at his grandmother's house in the country. He gets bored, wanders back into the city to hang out with his friends, and is murdered.
      • In Season 4, Tommy Carcetti wins the Mayoral election thanks to manipulation of the bad press surrounding the murder of a state's witness. The kicker is that the guy was actually killed by a ricochet from dumbass drunks shooting bottles.
        Ed Norris: So our guy's dead because a bullet misses a bleach bottle, and this fuck Carcetti gets to be the mayor behind the stupidity. I fucking love this town.
    • The federal Witness Protection Program shows up at the end of Season 2. Frank Sobotka agrees to testify against the Greeks, with the possibility of federal witness protection offered. However, the Greeks' mole in the FBI tips them off, and they kill Sobotka before he can provide any information. This leads Sobotka's nephew Nick to testify in his uncle’s stead, and he, his girlfriend, and his infant child are brought into the federal program. However, a brief shot in a later season suggests (and Word of God confirms) that Nick eventually threw it off. (As it was, the chief Greeks—Spiros Vondopoulos and "the Greek"—were never caught.)
  • Without a Trace has a few variants:
    • Digging into the past of one victim, they can't find record of him before a certain point. Turns out, he was in the program, which not even his wife knew. He saw he was being followed, assumed the man he was testifying against had found him, and ran off with his daughter so that they wouldn't kill him. He had been reluctant to testify, so his handler had sent a few agents to "stalk" him, hoping that he'd run begging to testify in return for more protection. Oops. Jack's team winds up faking his death—which they hide even from the marshals—so that he can start over again for real.
    • In one episode, a father and his two children go missing. The team learns that the son and one of his friends witnessed a mob hit on the way to school and the killer saw the son (but not the friend). The father attempted to protect his children by having them disappear, but they quickly get in over their head. After barely surviving a shootout, the father agrees to have his son testify and enter the program. The mobsters show up again, but the family doesn't, so they did a better job of it that time.
  • Witness Protection was a made-for-TV cable film that dramatized the program.

  • As a sort of precursor to this, God's Law in The Bible has Unintentional Manslayer Protection, as it provides such a person protection from the "avenger of blood" for unintentional deaths by having that person remain in a designated "city of refuge" until the death of the high priest. Three such cities were set up on the east side of the Jordan in the territory occupied by the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the eastern half of Manasseh, while three more cities were set up on the other side in the land of Canaan occupied by the other nine-and-a-half tribes.

    Theme Parks 
  • Serves as a big part of the conflict in Fast & Furious: Supercharged at Universal Studios, as it turns out that one of the riders is actually in the witness protection program, and is therefore wanted by the main villain. This results in the protagonists having to take on the villain and his forces in order to protect the witness.

    Video Games 
  • Subverted in at least one of Discworld games: an ad for "witness relocation program" offers relocating witnesses to the bottom of the river.
  • Grand Theft Auto V: Michael De Santa (previously Michael Townley) was placed in the witness protection program with his wife and two kids after getting caught robbing a bank and then ratting on his friends. Years later, Trevor, one of the friends he ratted on, (who thought he was dead; there was a funeral and everything,) discovers that Michael is still alive after Michael gets back into crime and uses his Catchphrase at a jewelry heist.
    • Subverted, however, as Michael and his family are in an informal witness protection program, as no one in the FBI except Agent Norton, and later Agent Haines, knows that they are in it either. Michael cut a deal with Norton beforehand to fake his death while turning over his partners, while Norton got a career boost for "killing" Michael Townley.
  • Midway through Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, Jerry Martinez goes into witness protection to cover his ass after the Vance Brothers hijack a major drug shipment he was overseeing for the Mendez Cartel. Which is convenient for the Vances, since it made it easy for them to frame Martinez as an undercover DEA agent stealing the shipment for himself to save their own asses from the Mendez'.

    Web Comics 
  • In Kevin & Kell, the bird conspiracy had a "witness relocation program", but it was used to silence witnesses, making them disappear and work for the conspiracy. They were all mind-wiped and released on New Year in 2000.

    Web Original 
  • There's a creepypasta floating around about a girl who finds out that her father escaped from the mob by going into witness protection after witnessing a neighboring family being murdered by the mob and they killed his wife in retaliation, except it's all a massive lie on his part. He murdered her real parents and kidnapped her to raise her as his own. She turns him in to the police at the end.

    Western Animation 
  • An early episode of Family Guy had Chris witness a robbery, which gets the family sent to a particularly horrible example of The Deep South.
  • The Falcone family in Fugget About It were once a prominent New York mobster family until Jimmy accidentally killed the Don. The Falcones then had to enter the witness protection program to escape mob retaliation and end up living in Regina, Saskatchewan.
  • In Futurama, Bender goes into witness protection after witnessing the robot mafia beat up Calculon for money owed. The crew appear to find him living as a hick farmer on the moon, whom the mob then murders. Only for the real Bender to appear in a pizzeria across the street, but he can return home now that the Donbot thinks he's dead.
  • In one episode of Goof Troop, after Goofy and Pete see a couple of mobsters fitting a guy for a cement overcoat, along with foiling the crime, they are forced to go into hiding or the mobsters would come after them. To Pete's dismay, thanks to budget cutbacks, he and Goofy have to be housed together, their safe house is across the street, and their security system consists of a whistle.
  • The Paramount Modern Madcap "Disguise The Limit" has an elephant who collides with Mike the Masquerader, a master-of-disguise crook who has just robbed a bank. The police keep the elephant under the witness protection program until Mike is captured and can be identified since the mythos is that elephants never forget. Mike uses various disguises to dispatch of the elephant, all unsuccessful. When Mike shows himself, the elephant doesn't recognize him. Mike intones, "Don't you remember me bumping into you when I robbed that bank?", which the elephant captured on a tape recorder he keeps because he actually has a lousy memory.
  • When The Simpsons became the Thompsons, complete with large-lettered shirts reading "WITNESS PROTECTION PROGRAM".