It’s safe to say that most people know you’re not legally supposed to destroy evidence, but for those facing criminal charges, it may still seem like a promising option if it means escaping conviction. Unfortunately, destroying or even hiding evidence is itself a serious crime and sometimes people end up in jail for destroying evidence that never would have hurt them otherwise. If you have been accused of destroying or hiding evidence, a Carmel Valley defense lawyer can help.
Under California law, it is a crime to willfully destroy something you know may be relevant to a court case or legal investigation. It is also illegal to submit forged or altered evidence to an investigator. It is important to note that the court case does not have to be of a criminal nature, but that you can be charged with this crime if you damage evidence related to a lawsuit or other civil nature. Also, you do not need to be the one facing criminal proceedings -if you shred documents to protect someone else, you can still be charged with destroying evidence.
There are two critical details in this law though that often serve as strong defenses to the Mira Mesa defense attorneys representing those charged with destroying or hiding evidence. First, you must know that the thing or things in question are likely to be used as evidence. If you shred your old business documents every few months, you cannot be charged with the crime simply for clearing out your old paperwork -unless you intentionally included documents that you knew could be used in a case or investigation. Secondly, the destruction has to have been on purpose -if a water pipe destroyed all of the paperwork stored in your office, you cannot be blamed unless you were responsible for destroying the pipe.
In many cases, destroying evidence can prove fruitless because investigators will find other ways to collect the evidence they need or reconstruct it from any scraps you left behind. For example, if you delete emails, they will likely still be on the email server or in the inbox of the person who sent or received the messages. Alternatively, if you shred documents and there are no other copies, a forensics team might be brought in to reassemble the shredded pieces of paper, which will still be used as evidence.
Destroying or concealing evidence is a misdemeanor in California and the maximum sentence you may face is up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Additionally, you may face other charges like obstruction of justice, or, if you tried to replace the destroyed evidence with fabricated evidence, offering or preparing false evidence. On the other hand, submitting forged or altered evidence to an investigator is a felony punishable by up to three years in prison.
Remember that if a criminal lawyer in Del Mar urges you to destroy or hide evidence, he or she is committing a crime and that means that your lawyer/client confidentiality could be at risk. If this ever happens, you should seek out a new attorney as soon as possible to discuss both your case and what your prior legal representative advised you to do.
If you aren’t sure if an action could be construed as destroying or concealing evidence, it is always advisable to speak with a La Jolla criminal attorney like Peter M. Liss before taking action. You can schedule a free initial consultation by calling (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024.
Creative Commons Image by Bill Smith