Felony Tampering with or Fabricating Physical Evidence
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While you may only think of tampering with evidence charges when it comes to long-term investigations, even simple concealment of items or documents can be charged as “tampering." In the movie Super Troopers, a group of boys are driving down the highway when a police cruiser comes up behind them attempting to pull them over. Before they stop their vehicle, they force the guy in the backseat to eat all their weed and mushrooms to conceal any evidence and evade a possessions charge. In the movie, the officer didn’t notice the signs of intoxication or paraphernalia but in real life and Williamson County this is charged as “tampering with physical evidence.” (Though there may be an issue of whether an investigation or official proceeding is pending.) While comical in the movie - tampering with evidence charges can be very serious.
Below, Austin criminal defense attorney Jason Trumpler will discuss Felony Tampering and what to do when stopped by an officer to avoid an additional charge of tampering or fabricating.
When an officer starts to communicate with you, it is imperative that rather than give them false or fabricated information or documents, or give the impression that you are doing so, you contact an attorney in order to avoid risking additional charges such as tampering with or fabricating physical evidence.
The Texas Penal Code Section 37.09 defines Tampering With or Fabricating Physical Evidence as knowingly interfering with an investigation or official proceeding. The offensive actions include:
- Altering or destroying something with the intent to impair it or make it unavailable
- Presenting or using anything with a knowledge that it is false
- If an item is concealed (with the exception of “privileged items”)
An offense under this section is classified as a 3rd Degree Felony and pertains to items that are inanimate in nature. This section also considers if you know an offense has been committed, like your friend concealing something, and not reporting them to law enforcement. This crime includes tampering with documentation like falsifying business records to evade taxation, conceal illegal activity and doctoring income statements.
The important thing to remember is the action “knowingly” which implies intent to conceal or destroy a piece of evidence. A prosecutor must prove intent so if evidence was hidden without you knowing or your intention to hide it then it probably wouldn’t be considered tampering. The same applies if a document was destroyed or made illegible without the intention to conceal it.
The most common defense towards these types of charges deal with lack of knowledge or intent. If the person didn’t knowingly alter a piece of evidence or have knowledge of its illegality, then he or she can avoid a conviction. In the case of our drug eating accomplice in Super Troopers, he or she would most definitely be charged with tampering if the car was searched and trace elements or other paraphernalia was found. This is because he was trying to evade an arrest or possession charge. If he had eaten the drugs earlier in the movie and was simply intoxicated, he couldn’t be charged with tampering. The argument we usually make in these cases, however, and often times successfully, is that the client did not know that he or she was interfering with an official investigation or proceeding at the time he or she consumed the drugs.
An offense committed under this section could be punishable with 2 to 10 years of in the Texas Department of Corrections and a fine up to $10,000. It would also result in a felony conviction, which can have lasting consequences both socially and financially.
One thing to note is that this offense increases to a 2nd degree felony if the evidence concealed is a human corpse. And if a third party knows about a corpse concealment and doesn’t report it to law enforcement they could face a Misdemeanor A conviction of Tampering with Evidence.
In Texas, these offenses are taken very seriously and if intent is proven, they can be added on top of other criminal charges. To find out how to challenge these charges and accusations contact The Law Offices of Jason Trumpler at 512-457-5200
or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
There are many different ways to approach a defense of these charges and we can help you or a loved one navigate through the proceedings. It is important to contact us to potentially have these charges reduced and ensure that your rights are protected. While we can never guarantee a positive outcome, having an experienced attorney can make sure you receive the best possible result.