What Does it Mean to Tamper with Evidence?
Many people have a strong temptation to destroy evidence if they believe that they may be in trouble with law enforcement. Don’t do this. It can be a criminal offense in its own right, and it could make circumstances even worse. Once you know that there is an investigation, the best thing to do is call a lawyer immediately before doing anything.
Texas Penal Code § 37.09 describes evidence tampering. According to the law, evidence tampering is when a person:
- Alters, destroys, or conceals
- Any record, document, or thing
- With intent to impair its verity, legibility, or availability as evidence in the investigation or official proceeding.
If you face charges of evidence tampering, reach out to a Frisco criminal defense lawyer immediately.
Ways that People Can Tamper with Evidence
One common example of evidence tampering is when people try to destroy evidence of narcotics when they know that their home is about to be searched. For example, they may try to flush the drugs down the toilet. Once you know that you are being investigated, you cannot move to destroy any evidence.
This does not just apply to physical substances such as narcotics. People subject to investigation also cannot do anything to their texts or emails. The minute that they try to delete something, or even ask someone else to do the same, they could also be charged with evidence tampering. Conceivably, this would be done with the intent to hinder the investigation.
Other examples of evidence tampering could include:
- Burning documents
- Taking evidence from a crime scene
- Producing false evidence
- Throwing away a weapon when being investigated for a crime
Evidence tampering is sometimes charged in conjunction with another crime. After all, there was already an investigation underway. In some cases, this is an example of the coverup being worse than the crime. There are some instances in which the investigation does not yield criminal charges for an underlying crime, but the subject is charged with some kind of process crime, such as a false statement or evidence tampering.
The key here is that there must be intent. The required thought is that you must be tampering with the evidence specifically to keep it from falling into the hands of law enforcement. If you are routinely deleting emails without any knowledge that you are being investigated, this would likely not be a crime. The burden of proof is on the prosecutor to show that there was intent.
However, if the prosecutor can prove the elements of the crime, the penalties can be significant. This can be a crime under federal and state law. Evidence tampering can be a felony or misdemeanor, depending on what the person did. If the crime is charged under state law, it can be a felony punished with between two and ten years of jail time. The most common time we see a tampering charge is when a young person is pulled over and has marijuana in the car. The young person tries to throw the marijuana or another drug out the window or worse eats it. This can cause a Class B misdemeanor possession charge to turn into a third degree felony.
Speak with a Lewisville Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you are being investigated for a crime, it is critical to get legal help before you make a mistake that could come back to hurt you. Call the Law Office of Brent D. Bowen PLLC at (940) 222-2488 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.