If you are under investigation or are currently facing evidence tampering charges in Fresno, you may feel uncertain about what is to come. A Fresno evidence tampering attorney can explain these charges and help you understand the potential penalties for a conviction. An experienced fraud defense attorney in Fresno can best walk you through the process with you, from the first accusation to the closing statements in court. At Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer, we can protect your legal rights and fight for the best possible conclusion of your case.
Call our office today at (559) 443-7442 to get started.
What Constitutes Evidence Tampering Under California Law?
California law outlines the definition of evidence and witness tampering in CA Penal Code § 141. If evidence tampering occurs in a federal case, you may face charges under 18 U.S. Code § 1519. These statutes make it illegal to interfere in any way with evidence that could change the outcome of the case. This includes:
- Altering evidence
- Planting evidence
- Hiding evidence
- Moving evidence
- Producing false evidence
- Destroying evidence
- Taking action to prevent a witness from testifying
Charges could stem from an action during a criminal investigation or trial, or even a civil case. Some of the more common ways evidence tampering occurs include:
- Discarding evidence, such as stolen property, drugs, revealing documents, or a murder weapon
- Deleting key emails, phone logs, text messages, or other documents
- Falsifying records
- Planting stolen merchandise, weapons, or other evidence to frame another person for a crime
- Attempting to alter the testimony of a witness
- Bribing or threatening a witness
It is important to note that you cannot accidentally tamper with evidence. This crime must occur willfully and intentionally. If you had no knowledge of the significance of what you were doing, you may be able to use this to beat the charges against you.
Penalties for an Evidence Tampering Conviction
If you are an average citizen, a conviction for misdemeanor evidence tampering in California could call for:
- Up to one year in county jail; and/or
- A fine of up to $1,000
Evidence tampering in a federal case can put you behind bars for up to 20 years.
If you threaten a witness to stop them from testifying in your California case (i.e., witness tampering), you face up to 20 years in prison.
Evidence tampering by a police officer is a much more serious offense than evidence tampering by an average citizen. If you are a law enforcement officer accused of evidence tampering, it is imperative you understand the consequences of a conviction. This could leave you with a felony record, end your career, and send you to a state prison for up to five years.
We can help you understand what to expect if you are facing allegations or charges of evidence tampering. We will collect all the facts in your case, and analyze the best approach to obtain a dismissal or not-guilty verdict, or to minimize the impact a conviction has on your everyday life.
Common Defenses in a Fresno Evidence Tampering Case
The state of California takes accusations of obstruction of justice very seriously, so building an airtight defense on your behalf is the best option for a positive outcome in your case. While your defense will depend on the details of your situation, there are some common defenses we often use to support clients facing evidence tampering charges. Two of the most common are:
You Did Not Purposefully Tamper with Evidence
To convict you of evidence tampering, the prosecution must show you intended to alter the outcome of the case. We can often obtain an acquittal by presenting evidence to raise doubt about the intentions of our clients.
If you accidentally discarded evidence or made a mistake that led to an accusation of planted evidence, we can work to help the jury see things from your point of view. You may not have known an email might be evidence, or not considered that throwing away an item would cause problems. People make reasonable mistakes, and this is not a crime.
The Charges Stem from a False Accusation
False accusations are all too common in evidence tampering cases. Mistaken identity can also lead to false accusations in evidence tampering cases. Someone may believe she witnessed you doing something nefarious, but she really saw someone else. She may have also seen you do something that she thought was criminal, but was really an innocent act on your part (e.g., you were shredding confidential documents from a previous year, you did not know they were potential evidence in an ongoing investigation). If you face a false accusation of evidence tampering, we can build a strong defense that shows you never acted to change the outcome of a case.
Other Related Charges
Evidence tampering often goes together with other crimes. Depending on what the prosecution alleges you did, you may face additional related allegations.
These related charges may include:
- Perjury, i.e., lying on the stand (CA Penal Code § 118)
- Assault and battery (if you used threats or actual violence to dissuade a witness from testifying) (CA Penal Code § 240-248)
- Murder or attempted murder (if you killed or attempted to kill a witness to keep him from testifying) (CA Penal Code § 187, CA Penal Code 664)
These related charges could leave you paying tens of thousands in fines and spending years or even decades in prison.
Let Our Fresno Evidence Tampering Lawyer Help You
If you face evidence tampering charges in Fresno, a defense lawyer can help you minimize the disruptions this causes to your life. Attorney Mike McKneely defends clients from false allegations and fights for minimal sentencing when clients make mistakes. Because he spent time in the courtroom as both a prosecutor and defense attorney, he knows how the other side operates.
Call Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer today at (559) 443-7442 to set up a free consultation. If you’re facing evidence tampering charges in California, preserve your legal rights by contacting us right away. Fresno criminal defense lawyer Michael McKneely has been on both sides of the criminal justice system, so he knows what to expect and how to make the process easier for you.