Tampering with proof is the crime the altering, destroying, or concealing physical proof with the intent to influence the result of a criminal investigation or court proceeding.

You are watching: Might be used to destroy evidence

Tampering with proof is illegal under both federal and also state law. The crime requires altering, destroying, or concealing physical evidence with the intent to impact the result of a criminal investigation or court proceeding.

Remember the scene in "Up In Smoke" where Cheech gulps down the joint he"s smoking cigarettes in Chong"s auto when the hears the police siren behind them? very funny scene but the 2 stoners might not have actually known that Cheech committed two crimes. Possession of any kind of amount the marijuana in Los Angeles in 1978 to be illegal, for this reason that"s the first one. And, through swallowing the "evidence" the the an initial crime, Cheech committed a 2nd crime—tampering through evidence.

Tampering through witnesses is likewise a crime. For an ext information about witness tampering, watch Intimidating a Witness.

What Is Tampering v Evidence?

A person commits the commonwealth crime the tampering with evidence when the or she intended alters, conceals, falsifies, or destroys any kind of record, document, or tangible object v the intent to interfere through an investigation, possible investigation, or other proceedings through the commonwealth government. (18 U.S.C. § 1519.) State laws likewise make the a crime to tamper with proof in public official proceeding and also investigations.


When a human being intentionally destroys a document or item that is not, and also will not, become evidence in an investigation or various other proceeding, there is no tampering through evidence. If Cheech had actually been smoking a clove tobacco that he assumed was a share of marijuana (a wrong Cheech would never make) and also swallowed it as soon as a cop traction the vehicle over for speeding, he would certainly not have tampered v evidence. Even though he thought he was smoking a joint and intended to damage evidence that that, his belief does not change the truth that there is no evidence of a crime.


In stimulate to convict a person of tampering with evidence, a prosecutor should prove that the human being knew the the item through which she accused tampered was evidence (or can be evidence) in an ongoing or future examination or proceeding. Because that example, if a janitor feeds a ridge of records into the shredder, she probably has actually not intentional tampered v evidence, also if the stack included a paper that proved the organization for i m sorry she worked was a money-laundering procedure for a criminal syndicate. However, if the boss shredded that exact same document, the is far much more likely the he knew that was destroying evidence.


A prosecutor must likewise prove the the separation, personal, instance charged v tampering with evidence intended come interfere through an examination or various other governmental proceeding once he changed or ruined the evidence. So, a person who inadvertently or accidentally transforms or destroys a paper or point that he to know to be incriminating probably has not tampered with evidence. If the syndicate ceo unintentionally knocks end a cappuccino ~ above incriminating accountancy records, making lock illegible, he has actually not knowingly transformed the evidence (although he may not be sincerely sorry because that his clumsiness).

Evidence Tampering In Contemplation that Future Proceeding

A human who destroys evidence out of are afraid of one investigatio or before a crime has actually been committed, intended to hide a later crime, has actually tampered v evidence. For example, the man who it s okay his wife drunk prior to leading she to the pool to death her in a staged accident, however stops top top the method to the diving board to wipe clean her lipstick from the whiskey glass, has tampered with evidence (in addition to committing murder). And, the inside stock trader who deletes emails come his resource in bespeak to leaving no follow of illegal stock tips has destroyed evidence also though that is no under examination at the time. (He is also guilty that being extremely naïve if he think a deleted email can"t be found!)

Common Defenses come Tampering with Evidence

As with most crimes, over there are several defenses the a human charged v tampering with evidence may raise. Here are a couple of of them.

Lack the Knowledge

An individual that can show that she lacked knowledge that a damaged or ruined piece of proof was, in fact, evidence will it is in acquitted. If the janitor in the example above can present that she only operated at night, had no contact with the world in the workplaces she cleaned, go not recognize what business they were in, and also had no information about their illegal activities, she deserve to avoid a conviction.

Lack that Intent

Even one who destroys or changes a piece of evidence but who did no intend to interfere with a governmental examination or proceeding has not tampered with evidence. If Cheech had actually finished that joint in the normal means before he heard the police siren, he can not be charged v tampering with evidence. While it is true that he would certainly have damaged evidence of medicine possession and also use, his intention to be to acquire high, no to hide the joint.

See more: How Much Is A John Adams Dollar Coin Worth ? Access Denied

How Is Tampering with evidence Punished?

The U.S. Federal government takes tampering with evidence really seriously. A person who is convicted of the crime under federal regulation may face a jail sentence of not more than 20 years, a fine, or both. (18 U.S.C. § 1519.)

State penalties vary. Some claims make any kind of tampering with proof a felony offense. Other states do it a felony to tamper with a felony investigation or case and a misdemeanor to tamper with much less serious cases. You"ll require to inspect your state laws for the applicable penalty.

Consult v an Attorney

As that potential punish indicates, tampering with proof is a significant charge and also can happen in many situations. As with all major legal problems, be sure to consult a lawyer skilled in criminal law if you have questions regarding a crime or investigation.