Evidence plays an integral role in criminal cases. This is true for the
prosecutor and defense, as both sides use testimony, documents, or other
objects to either prove a person is guilty or to challenge accusations.
Because of the importance of evidence, if a person tampers with anything
that could be used in an investigation or presented in court, they face
What Is Tampering with Evidence?
Texas Penal Code 37.09, a person tampers with evidence if they destroy, alter, or hide any object
that could help law enforcement with a criminal investigation or could
have been presented at trial by either the prosecutor or defense. For
example, suppose Billy got in an argument with Cheryl. Tempers rise and
Billy fatally shoots Cheryl. Afraid that he will be investigated for murder,
Billy throws his gun into a lake. His actions would be considered a violation
of the law.
The tampering with evidence statute isn't only concerned with destroying
or concealing objects. It also makes it illegal to knowingly make or present
something false to affect the outcome of an investigation or trial. Let's
return to the example of Billy and Cheryl. Say Billy learns that he's
a person of interest in the investigation of Cheryl's death. He wants
to have an alibi so police can't link him to the scene of the crime;
therefore, he creates a receipt that shows he was picking up his car from
the body shop on the date and time of the incident. Because he presents
that to the investigators knowing it's false, he violates the tampering
with evidence law.
Failure to Report Finding a Corpse
An interesting part of Texas's tampering with evidence law is that
a person could be charged even if they didn't destroy, hide, or falsely
present objects that could have been used in an investigation or trial.
A person could be violating the law if they:
- See a corpse that they should reasonably believe resulted from an offense,
- Know that law enforcement has not been made aware of the corpse's existence, and
- Fail to report it
Referring back to the example with Billy and Cheryl, say Bob later passes
by the scene of Cheryl's murder. He can see that she has a bullet
wound, which most likely caused her death. The place where he found the
body is secluded, no one else is around, and he doesn't hear sirens
approaching. A reasonable person in this situation may conclude that Cheryl's
body has not been reported. However, Bob does not call the police to report
the offense; instead, he walks away. His actions are considered a crime
under this subsection of Texas Penal Code 37.09.
What Are the Penalties for Tampering with Evidence?
As mentioned at the beginning of this blog, the punishments for tampering
with evidence are severe.
The potential conviction penalties are as follows:
Third-degree felony for altering, destroying, concealing, or falsifying evidence knowing that
an offense has been committed or that an investigation or trial is pending.
The penalties include up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to
$10,000. However, if the object that was destroyed was a human corpse,
the class of charge increases to a second-degree felony. Then, the punishments
include up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
Class A misdemeanor for not reporting a corpse that may have been part of a crime. If a person
is convicted for this offense, they face up to 1 year in jail and/or up
to $4,000 in fines.
Get Aggressive Defense from Jerry Loftin & Associates
Whether you were charged with a felony or misdemeanor in Fort Worth, our
attorneys are here to provide the effective legal counsel you need to
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