An accusation of evidence tampering is extremely serious.
Thanks to procedural shows, most of us have seen examples of evidence tampering which usually involves one of the show’s characters taking a key piece of evidence and replacing it with something else. The consequences of this tampering generally depends on the plot arc the series writers are creating.
In the real world, evidence tampering is always bad. What few of us realize is that a person can only be formally charged with evidence tampering in California if the situation has a few key requirements. According to Find Law, a person will only be charged with evidence tampering if they:
- “Alter, destroy, conceal, or remove a thing or item with the purpose of hiding the truth or making an item unavailable for a proceeding or investigation; or
- Make, present, or use an item in a manner to deceive any other party who is or maybe engaged in the proceeding or investigation.”
The issue of evidence tampering in California is addressed in the state’s Penal Code 141 PC.
According to the individuals who created the law, to be charged with evidence tampering in California, there must be sufficient evidence that you:
- Changed the evidence
- Hid evidence
- Manufactured evidence
- Moved evidence
- Planted evidence
The legal consequences of tampering with evidence conviction in California depend on whether the convicted is a regular citizen or if they are a member of law enforcement.
For an average citizen, tampering with evidence is a misdemeanor. The maximum sentence is up to six months in jail, a $1,000 fine or even a combination of both.
If the convicted is a police officer, the consequences of evidence tampering in California are more severe. In these situations, the issue is a felony. A guilty conviction has a variety of sentencing options that include probation, a year in a county jail, or anywhere from 2-5 years in a California state prison.
There are a few defenses that can be successfully argued in an evidence tampering case. The most successful defenses include:
- False accusations
- That you made a mistake and didn’t realize that you were dealing with a piece of evidence
- That you were set up
The most important thing to remember if you’re ever accused of tampering with evidence is to quickly record every single interaction you had with all the evidence that’s connected to the crime. This written report will go a long way towards showing that you had no reasonable way of knowing that the item you dealt with was evidence or that you weren’t actually involved with the evidence.