FAQs About Evidence Tampering Crimes in Florida
Deleting a text message, tossing an important document, or altering a signature may not seem like a big deal, but such conduct could actually be a crime under Florida’s statute on tampering with evidence. The law covers a wide range of acts intended to interfere with an official investigation into criminal activity, so it’s important to know what could get you into trouble. If you’re already facing charges for evidence tampering, you’ll need an experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal attorney to represent you in court.
What does it mean to tamper with evidence? The offense is defined as altering, destroying, or hiding evidence with the intent to impair the use of the item in an official proceeding. Besides criminal trials, you could be arrested for tampering with evidence if you interfere with:
- Any state of the criminal process;
- An investigation by prosecutors or police;
- Grand jury proceedings; or,
- Proceedings before the Florida Senator or House of Representatives.
Do I need to know about a proceeding? The statute only applies to trials, investigations, or other hearings that you’re aware of, which isn’t difficult for the prosecution to prove if you’re the subject of the proceeding. A prosecuting attorney may face challenges if you tamper with evidence in a proceeding involving someone you know. However, keep in mind that many types of illegal acts will leave a “paper trail” behind – especially with electronic communications. Emails, text messages, social media posts, and other content can be uncovered by officials, even when you delete them from your own computer or device.
Tampering often arises when police are in pursuit of a suspect, and that person swallows, throws, or otherwise impairs evidence. Courts have ruled that such a situation is an official investigation in most cases, so you could be arrested under these circumstances.
How does Florida punish tampering with evidence? You may be surprised to learn that this crime is a Third Degree Felony. If convicted, you could be sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison, five years on probation, and a fine up to $5,000. Plus, you’ll have a felony criminal conviction on your permanent record. If you tamper with evidence in connection with your own criminal case, these penalties will be added to those for the underlying crime.
Are there any defenses to evidence tampering? One option for defending your case is attacking the allegations presented by the prosecution, particularly the intent and knowledge elements. If you didn’t mean to impair evidence or don’t know about someone else’s criminal case, the prosecutor cannot prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Additional defenses include:
- Violation of your civil rights against unlawful search and seizure;
- You altered, concealed, or destroyed evidence for other legitimate purposes; or,
- The evidence was abandoned by you, so you didn’t remove or tamper with it.
Talk to a Florida Criminal Lawyer About Defense Strategies
Tampering with evidence may seem like an insignificant offense, but there are serious consequences for a conviction on this felony offense. To learn more about defense options, please contact Fort Lauderdale attorney Kevin J. Kulik. We can schedule a confidential consultation to review your circumstances and discuss strategies.