Tampering With Evidence Defined
As a felony of the third (3rd) degree, tampering with evidence is a serious criminal charge that carries a high potential for prison time in Ohio and many other states. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side when facing such a charge will make a difference due to the “presumption for prison time” that all judges must follow or “determine” if convicted.
Tampering with evidence is defined in ORC 2921.12 as altering, destroying, concealing, or removing evidence with the intent to impair its value in an official proceeding. An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to research the sentencing tendencies of a specific county or judge regarding a tampering charge, and adjust their defense accordingly.
Examples of Tampering
Ohio counties or municipalities can vary greatly in their tendency to add a tampering charge. Some are quick to apply a tampering charge to an ongoing investigation for another alleged criminal act. For example, a tampering charge may be added to an OVI charge, should a defendant throw an open container of alcohol out of their car when being stopped for an accusation of an OVI/DUI.
The charge may also occur later in a criminal case, such as during court proceedings or as law enforcement is taking action to arrest or seize property. Deleting a text message or communicating with a witness may be considered tampering with evidence whether or not it is intentional. Once the tampering charge is added, an experienced criminal defense attorney is required to investigate and prove that there is not a preponderance of evidence for a conviction. This may only be possible by going to trial.
How Can a Criminal Defense Lawyer Help?
A good defense against a tampering charge will require a criminal defense firm to:
- challenge the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt
- present evidence regarding the defendant’s knowledge of the value of the evidence
- argue the defendant’s intent was accidental or unintentional
- argue the defendant did not have the requisite mens rea, or guilty mind, to tamper
- examine the constitutionality of procedures by law enforcement officers to weaken the prosecution’s case
- challenge the collection, handling, or storage of the evidence that may render the evidence inadmissible
Since every case of tampering with evidence is unique, the best defense lawyer will be able to conduct a thorough investigation, and build a robust defense tailored to the individual circumstances surrounding the accusation. Using the examples above:
- If the open containers of alcohol were disposed of prior to the knowledge of an accusation or investigation, it is not tampering.
- If the deleted text message was not associated with the investigation at-hand, it may be argued there was no intent to impair the police investigation.
In addition to arguing the validity of the evidence and action, a good defense attorney may be able to negotiate a plea to a lesser charge. For example, a plea to obstruction of justice or obstruction of official business is likely to result in a more favorable outcome because it is often a misdemeanor or low-level felony. It is important to note the difference in sentencing guidelines because while prison time is not mandatory for an F3 conviction, there is a presumption of jail time.
Tampering with evidence charges in Ohio demand a strategic and comprehensive defense. Whether arguing the intent, scrutinizing procedural aspects, or negotiating a plea, a well-crafted defense can make a significant difference in the outcome of the case. Engaging the services of an experienced criminal defense firm is essential for navigating the complexities of such charges.
Call today if you or someone you know is the target of a criminal investigation for tampering.
Written for The Law Office of Brian Jones, LLC & Jones Holistic Defense
- by Benjamin Jackoby, Ph.D.
Ohio Laws and Administrative Rules, ORC 2921.12, 2921.31, 2921.32