If you are being investigated for a crime, it may be tempting to get rid of any possessions or objects that could incriminate you or create the appearance of guilt. However, doing so is a crime punishable under state and federal law and is to be avoided by anyone who is the subject of a criminal investigation, as well as anyone who suspects they may soon be arrested or charged with a crime.
18 U.S.C. § 1519 forbids the destruction, concealment, and falsification of evidence in order to interfere with federal criminal investigation, stating:
“Whoever knowingly alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsifies, or makes a false entry in any record, document, or tangible object with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence the investigation or proper administration of any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States or any case filed under title 11, or in relation to or contemplation of any such matter or case, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.”
Nebraska Revised Statute § 28-922 states that tampering with physical evidence is a Class IV Felony, and those charged could face up to five years in prison, a $10,000 fine, or both. It states:
“A person commits the offense of tampering with physical evidence if, believing an official proceeding is pending or about to be instituted and acting without legal right or authority, he:
- Destroys, mutilates, conceals, removes or alters physical evidence with the intent to impair its verity or availability in the pending or prospective official proceeding; or
- Knowingly makes, presents, or offers any false physical evidence with intent that it be introduced in the pending or prospective official proceeding.
- Physical evidence, as used in this section, shall mean any article, objects, document, record or other thing of physical substance.”
What is considered evidence tampering?
In broad terms, evidence is anything that can support a legal claim or show it is false. When someone tampers with evidence, they are either:
Altering it – such as changing the date on a receipt
Destroying it – burning incriminating documents
Concealing it – hiding drugs
Making false evidence – planting DNA at a crime scene
What if you accidentally tampered with or destroyed evidence?
To be convicted of evidence tampering, prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that you deliberately and knowingly concealed, destroyed, or otherwise altered evidence. You may not be charged with evidence tampering if you altered evidence accidentally or did so unknowingly. Your criminal defense attorney is able to show.
There are a number of defenses against an evidence tampering charge, including:
- Mistake of fact – the accused did not know the objects they were destroying were relevant to a potential legal proceeding
- Voluntary or involuntary intoxication – the accused was under the influence and could not understand the extent of what they were doing
- Abandonment – evidence was not destroyed, but rather discarded because it was no longer needed or wanted by the accused
Your criminal defense attorney will be able to determine the best defense for your case. If you or someone you know is being accused of altering, hiding, or tampering with evidence, contact an experienced criminal defender at Berry Law Firm.