Key Elements of an Evidence Tampering Charge
Tampering with evidence involves a person destroying, concealing or otherwise altering evidence related to a crime with the specific intent to influence the outcome of a criminal investigation or court proceeding. It may be any type of physical evidence, so long as there is a clear intent to interfere with an investigation.
To defend against charges of tampering with evidence, you must be able to challenge one of those elements. Either that you did not knowingly affect the evidence in any way, or you had no intent to interfere with an investigation.
Lack of knowledge
If you can demonstrate you did not know a destroyed piece of evidence was actually evidence in a criminal investigation, you cannot be convicted of tampering with evidence. For example, a janitor who disposes of documents to be shredded because he is simply doing his duty cannot be convicted of evidence tampering if he did not know the documents contained evidence of fraud.
Lack of intent
A person who destroys or otherwise alters a piece of evidence knowingly, but did not intend to interfere with an investigation, also cannot be convicted of evidence tampering. The element of intent has to exist for such charges to hold up. The prosecutor must prove your intent — and it’s the most difficult element to prove in an evidence tampering case. It is critical to build a strong case surrounding your lack of intent.
To learn more about evidence tampering charges and the common defense strategies available, contact knowledgeable Reading criminal defense attorney David R. Eshelman.