Defenses To Tampering With Evidence

Posted on: 21 May 2020

Tampering with evidence is a serious criminal charge with dire consequences. Like other criminal charges, however, you are innocent until proven guilty. Below are some defenses you can use so that the justice system doesn't find you guilty of tampering with evidence.

Abandonment

The abandonment defense alleges that you discarded the evidence because you no longer needed it. This defense applies if you didn't know that the item in question was evidence.

Consider the case of John Doe, who is out on bail pending trial for drug charges. A week before the trial, the suspect gets rid of some drug paraphernalia while cleaning their house. In this case, John Doe can use abandonment as a defense if the prosecution accuses them of tampering with evidence. 

Mistake of Fact

The mistake of fact defense applies if you did tamper with the evidence, but you didn't know about its connection to a crime. After all, there are perfect reasons why one would want to destroy something that doesn't have to do with evidence tampering.

Consider a case where the authorities accuse an office clerk of tampering with evidence after the clerk shreds office papers connected to a criminal investigation. The office clerk can use mistake of fact as a defense if they didn't know about the crime and was just doing their normal duties.

Lack of Intent

The lack of intent defense could help you if you did not intend to damage the evidence. For the authorities to convict you of tampering with evidence, they must prove your intentions to destroy the evidence.

Consider two cases of IT support staff members that format their computers' hard disks. One support staff formats the disk after learning that their office is under investigation. The other support staff formats their disk because the disk is full, and they want to reuse it. The second support staff can use the lack of intent defense because they did not intend to tamper with any evidence.

Intoxication

Intoxication is a common defense for many types of crimes. In many cases, the defense applies whether you were voluntarily or involuntarily intoxicated. An example is if you get drunk and drop a cigarette butt that ends up burning a piece of evidence. Note that intoxication is rarely a complete defense — it might mitigate your charges and punishment but not exonerate you.

The defense you use should depend on the circumstances of your case. Consult a criminal defense lawyer to analyze your case, advise, and help you use the most appropriate defense for your case.

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