In the state of New York, it is a felony offense to either hide, damage, or change any evidence. This crime falls under the part of penal code 215 that deals with tampering with evidence, and it can have strict punishments. The possible penalty is quite severe, but a talented lawyer may be able to help a person charged with tampering with evidence.
The Definition of Tampering With Evidence
New York defines tampering with evidence as the action of destroying, altering, concealing, or falsifying any sort of evidence. This evidence can be an object, a document, or any sort of record. However, it only counts as a crime when it is purposefully done with the intent to prevent or interfere with an investigation into a crime. A person may be charged with tampering with evidence if they committed the act before, during, or after an investigation. Common examples of tampering with evidence include:
- altering business records to hide illegal actions
- changing financial documents to avoid taxes
- swallowing a drug right before being pulled over by a police officer
- shredding documents right after they are subpoenaed
- planting false evidence at a crime scene
The Penalties for Tampering With Evidence
Tampering with evidence is a class E felony which is the least severe type of felony in the state. Generally, a person convicted of this crime in a state court may receive just a fine, extended probation, or a prison time ranging from 1 to 5 years. Depending on the individual circumstances, the punishment can be light or very severe. If a person is convicted under federal law, they can face a fine, a prison sentence of up to 20 years, or both a fine and an imprisonment. Penalties tend to be more severe if it causes a conviction in a federal court. If convicted, you will also become a felon, and this excludes you from voting, buying firearms, getting welfare, and certain employment opportunities.
Possible Defenses Against a Tampering With Evidence Charge
A prosecutor will have to prove that the destroyed, altered, or concealed item was essential evidence to another criminal case. They also have to show that the person knew the item could be evidence and chose to destroy the item to intentionally hide the evidence. All of these conditions make it somewhat easier for our firm to help someone charged with this crime. Common defenses that we use against a tampering with evidence charge focus on showing a lack of knowledge or a lack of intent.
A lack of knowledge defense works if the defendant can show that they did not know the item that they tampered with was or potentially could be evidence in a criminal case. For example, a secretary shredding documents might be able to avoid a conviction if the secretary’s lawyer showed evidence that he was unaware that the documents were evidence. A lack of intent defense would show that the defendant did not intend to alter a police investigation. For example, a person who ingested drugs for the purpose of getting high instead of hiding them from a police officer could use a lack of intent defense.
If you or someone you know is involved with a case about tampering with evidence, we can provide a lot of help. We may be able to prove your innocent or help you to avoid harsh penalties. Contact us today for a risk-free consultation and learn more about how Raiser & Kenniff can help you to get the best possible outcome for your case.