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Tampering with Evidence: An Overview

Tampering with evidence of a crime is strictly illegal in all states. But what exactly does this sort of tampering entail?

A person may be charged with tampering with evidence of a crime if he or she knowingly falsifies, conceals, destroys or alters evidence (such as a record, document or object) in any way with a clear intent to interfere with an ongoing or possible criminal investigation or other government proceeding.

Understanding the term ‘knowingly’

To be able to secure a conviction of tampering with evidence, a prosecutor must prove the defendant knew the item with which he or she allegedly tampered was a piece of evidence or could have been a piece of evidence.

One commonly used example is a janitor or cleaner in an office who shreds documents that have been discarded. This person would be unlikely to know those documents could have contained evidence. A manager at the company who takes the same action would be much more likely to have knowledge that what he or she destroyed could be evidence.

Demonstrating intent

The prosecutor must also prove the person charged with tampering actually intended to interfere with the investigation. Proving intent can be difficult, so it is important for prosecutors to have a significant amount of evidence that makes it clear — beyond any reasonable doubt — that the defendant did mean to hinder the investigation.

There are several common defense strategies associated with tampering charges, such as arguing you had a lack of knowledge or lack of intent. To learn more about how you can best protect your constitutional rights, contact dedicated Reading criminal defense attorney David R. Eshelman.


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