Almost any object or material can have the potential to serve as evidence in a crime. This does not mean that destroying or otherwise tampering with any object could be enough to warrant an accusation of tampering with evidence. To be charged with tampering with evidence, you must know that the evidence was suspected of being involved with a crime, and have the intention to alter it due to this knowledge.
If you are worried that you may be accused of tampering with evidence, take the time to understand more about the elements of the crime. By doing so, you may learn more about the defense options available.
The elements of the crime
There are four elements to the crime of tampering with evidence. In order to charge a person with the crime, the prosecution has the burden of proof to establish that all four elements were present.
Awareness of a possible investigation
It must be established that the defendant acted in the way they did with the awareness that there may be an investigation in the future.
Knowledge of the consequences of their actions
The defendant must have acted with the knowledge of what they were doing. For example, if a person destroyed files that they thought were irrelevant to an upcoming investigation, they did not have knowledge of the consequences of their actions.
Intent to cause such consequences
A person may have tampered with evidence, but if they lacked malicious intent, they cannot be held legally responsible. For example, if a house is burglarized, the homeowner may have inspected the scene before the investigation was carried out. In touching the windows and picking up objects, they may have compromised the evidence. However, they did not have malicious intent.
The object tampered with was evidence
The object that the defendant tampered with must have actually been evidence. If it can be proven that a person tampered with an object, this object must be shown to have played a role in a crime for the defendant to be charged.
If you are worried about being held responsible after evidence was tampered with, you must dispute one of the four elements of the crime as part of your defense.