The criminal justice system only works if judges and jurors can believe the credibility of evidence. For this reason, Texas criminalizes tampering or fabricating evidence. This is one of those crimes which it is very easy to break. One simple mistake could result in criminal penalties, time in jail, and a permanent record. If you’re accused of tampering with evidence, contact Tad Nelson & Associates. Our Galveston criminal defense attorneys will see if we can help you.
Examples of Evidence Tampering
Texas Penal Code § 37.09 is the evidence tampering statute. It states that it is illegal to do any of the following if you know an investigation or official proceeding is in progress or pending:
- Destroy, conceal, or alter any document, record, or thing with the intent to impair its availability, verity, or legibility as evidence in the investigation or official proceeding, or
- Present, make, or use any document, record, or thing if you know it is false if your intent is to affect an investigation or official proceeding.
It is also a crime to hide or destroy evidence if you know an offense has been committed but no proceeding or investigation has been opened.
Here are some simple examples we have seen in Texas court:
- Deleting emails to keep them from being used in a proceeding or investigation
- Scrubbing files from a computer so that investigators can’t find them
- Flushing drugs down the toilet to hide them
- Changing the date on checks or other documents to conceal a crime
- Presenting items to the police as evidence of a crime when you know the items are not evidence
- Forging an employee performance review to create a pretext for firing the person
There are many other examples. As you can imagine, it is very easy to destroy something that might be relevant to an investigation.
Failing to Report a Corpse
This deserves its own mention. The law also makes it a crime to fail to report a corpse to law enforcement when it’s reasonable to assume a crime was committed. So if you come across a body on the side of the road, you should call the police.
The penalties will depend on the charges. In most cases, evidence tampering is a third-degree felony. In Texas, you are looking at 2-10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. You will also have a record as a felon.
If you failed to report a corpse, then it’s a Class A misdemeanor. Still, you could face up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. You will also have a criminal record.
Defending Those Accused of Evidence Tampering
These cases often turn on intent—did you destroy or alter the evidence with the intent of keeping it from being used? Or did you accidentally hide it, throw it away, or delete it? Something as simple as hiding your son’s shirt from law enforcement because there is blood on it could result in felony charges. We recommend contacting an experienced Galveston criminal defense attorney today.