What Happens if You Inadvertently Tamper with Evidence?
There are strict laws that prohibit tampering with evidence when a criminal prosecution is imminent or underway. There are many types of conduct that can fall under the evidence tampering umbrella, ranging from swallowing drugs, deleting digital evidence on your phone or computer, to not reporting finding a dead body. Evidence tampering is a serious offense, but what happens if law enforcement officials accuse you of evidence tampering when such conduct was inadvertent? If this happens, contact a Collin County, TX criminal defense attorney immediately.
Intent to Tamper with Evidence
Like any other type of offense, evidence tampering has specific elements that a prosecutor must prove to obtain a conviction. These are:
- The deliberate destruction, suppression, concealment, or other use of evidence
- To purposefully alter the outcome of an investigation or proceeding
Notice that these elements involve deliberate and purposeful acts, which means that this crime requires intent. Someone must act with the intention to tamper with evidence in order to be convicted of the offense.
For a tampering with evidence conviction, the prosecutor must demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that the offense involved:
- The intent to tamper with evidence
- The knowledge that the conduct would alter the outcome of the investigation or proceeding
- Evidence that is valuable to an official investigation or proceeding
- Awareness that the investigation or proceeding was pending or upcoming
If any of these are not met, there should not be a conviction of evidence tampering.
Proving your mindset and that you did not have the requisite intent to tamper with evidence is more challenging than you might think. While you might know that the evidence destruction was accidental, how do you demonstrate that to the prosecutor, judge, or jury? The answer is that you hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who knows how to defend against specific intent crimes. A skilled defense attorney can use polygraph examinations, independent forensic examinations, and circumstantial evidence to cast doubt on your intention to tamper with evidence and affect an investigation or proceeding.
Evidence Tampering Penalties
It is so important to mount an aggressive defense against evidence tampering allegations because the resulting penalties and consequences can be severe. Tampering with evidence is generally a third-degree felony, which can be punished by two to ten years in prison and fines up to $10,000. If the tampered evidence in question was a human corpse, the charge can escalate to a second-degree felony, which can mean up to 20 years in state prison plus fines. A case that might be a misdemeanor or even a ticket offense could potentially turn into a felony if you try to destroy or tamper with the evidence.
In addition, having this type of felony conviction on your record can impact your job, personal life, immigration status, and much more. Because the consequences can be lasting and far-reaching, you want to present the strongest defense possible to prove that your alleged conduct was inadvertent.
Let a Collin County, TX Criminal Defense Lawyer Protect Your Rights
If you are accused of evidence tampering or any other criminal offense in the Collin County area, do not wait to speak with the office of attorney J. Michael Price II. Contact us to discuss the charges you face and how we can assist you.