A common scene on TV police dramas is a suspect being chased by the police, and as they attempt to get away the suspect swallows or tosses the evidence they’re holding. This is a classic example of tampering with evidence.
Tampering with evidence can be any action that destroys, alters, conceals, or falsifies any sort of evidence. The definition of evidence is also very broad and includes any object, a document, or any sort of record useful to an investigation or inquiry. Let's take a closer look at the legal issue of tampering with evidence.
Elements of the Offense
The prosecution has the burden of establishing all elements of crime to prove that a person has committed the offence. Each of these very specific elements must be shown beyond a reasonable doubt for a conviction. The basic elements of tampering with evidence include:
The Act of Tampering
Tampering is a very broad concept that seems to cover any action that conceals a crime. But there are limits to what can be charged as a crime. For example, the fact that the accused was a knowing participant in an obvious crime, such as selling illegal drugs, doesn’t prove that they knew there could be an investigation into that crime or that the item they destroyed was evidence. So the fact that they threw away a piece of evidence doesn't necessarily mean they were destroying evidence.
Actions that can trigger an evidence tampering charge include:
Penalties for Evidence Tampering
Tampering with evidence can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. The laws of your state and the nature of the alleged actions will determine the level of punishment. For example, if the accused begins flushing evidence down the toilet as the police walk through the door, higher penalties are likely. A conviction may include a combination of the following:
Defending Against a Criminal Charge
When accused of any crime, you are presumed innocent, and have the right to a speedy trial and present a defense. To be found guilty of tampering with evidence, the government must prove you intended to commit each of the elements of this crime. There are also some common defenses that may apply to the facts of your case including:
Let an Attorney Help You with Your Evidence Tampering Charge
Any criminal charge is serious business. If you're not properly defended, you could face a lengthy criminal sentence and a conviction on your record. The law relating to tampering with evidence can be complex. An experienced criminal defense attorney can investigate the claims made against you and help determine which defenses would be most effective in your case.