What If I Accidentally Destroy Evidence in Texas?

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We have all seen a crime drama or two in which evidence tampering played an exciting role. While evidence tampering is indeed illegal in Texas – as in every state – and at the federal level, accidentally destroying evidence generally does not constitute a crime. If you have been charged with evidence tampering, there is some basic information that you should know.

Texas Law

The subsection of the Texas Penal Code that addresses tampering with evidence is entitled Tampering with or Fabricating Physical Evidence, and it describes such activity as doing either of the following:

  • Deliberately destroying suppressing, or hiding evidence
  • Preparing a document, record, or another kind of instrument to purposefully alter the direction or outcome of an investigation or another kind of official proceeding (or of either a related investigation or an investigation that will happen in the future)

While tampering with evidence can take many forms, some obvious examples include:

  • Flushing drugs down the toilet
  • Tossing a weapon into a body of water or out of a car window
  • Shredding, burning, or otherwise destroying documents
  • Burying a dead body

These are third-degree felonies that can lead to from 2 to 10 years in prison and to a fine of up to $10,000.

Tampering with Evidence and Intention

Most crimes require that the perpetrator had the intent – or the willful determination – to commit the crime in question. While this may seem straightforward enough, it can be extremely difficult to pinpoint one’s intentions. With evidence tampering charges, the prosecution must be able to prove that your actions were specifically intended to destroy or alter the evidence in question. This means the court must show that your actions were purposeful. In other words, if you accidentally or unwittingly destroyed evidence in the course of your life, it should not precipitate a criminal investigation.

The Elements of Evidence Tampering

Crimes are composed of specific elements that must all be present for the crime to have been committed in the first place. The elements involved in evidence tampering include:

  • That you had the intention of tampering with evidence (as discussed)
  • That you had the knowledge your actions could influence the outcome of the investigation
  • That whatever you allegedly tampered with is evidence in the investigation
  • That you tampered with the evidence as a result of your awareness of a potential or pending investigation

Privileged information, such as information that falls under attorney-client privilege, is excepted from this test.

Facing Evidence Tampering Charges? You Need a Killeen Criminal Defense Attorney

Charges of evidence tampering are serious charges that should never be discounted. If you have been so charged, Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is a dedicated criminal defense attorney with extensive experience helping clients like you obtain the best possible resolutions for their cases. To learn more about charges related to evidence tampering and your defense, please do not hesitate to contact or call us at 254-501-4040 today.


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