The entire legal system in the US is based upon evidence. The sanctity of evidence is important for everything from making well-supported arrests to holding just trials. Maintaining the legitimacy of evidence in a given investigation is the foundation of making sure justice is served.
However, it’s all too easy for evidence to be corrupted, whether accidentally or on purpose. If someone purposefully alters evidence, they are committing a crime: tampering with evidence.
Like most states, Colorado takes evidence tampering seriously and has a specific charge dedicated to penalizing those who tamper.
How Colorado Law Defines Criminal Tampering
Criminal tampering is defined as “tamper[ing] with property” in order to “cause interruption or impairment of a service rendered to the public.”
The broadest definition of criminal tampering can include acts like damaging US mail trucks or stealing copper wires from utility lines as well as tampering with criminal evidence.
Evidence tampering is just a subset of the broader conviction. Colorado considers the whole of criminal tampering in this manner to be a class 1 misdemeanor, leading to 24 months in jail and a $5,000 fine maximum.
There are many ways to tamper with evidence. Tampering is the act of damaging or changing something without permission. That can include a variety of different actions.
Pertaining to this specific crime, however, there four elements that must be present for someone to be convicted of the offense.
The Four Elements of Criminal Tampering with Evidence
Like all crimes, the burden of proof rests upon the prosecution for charges of tampering with evidence. There are four specific elements that the prosecution must prove in order to convict someone of this crime:
Missing any one of these elements means that the event that occurred was not legally considered tampering with evidence.
Intent to Interfere with Evidence
Intent is the most important aspect of a great number of crimes. In order to tamper with evidence, the accused must have intended to interfere with it. Accidental damage or unintentional loss is not enough for the act to be considered a crime.
Knowledge of Altering Evidence
Knowledge is also important. For someone to purposefully tamper with evidence, they must know that the act they are taking will alter it. For example, if someone might try to clean the evidence without the knowledge that the cleaner would destroy it. In that case, they did not have the knowledge for the act to be considered criminal.
Proof the Evidence Existed
For someone to commit evidence tampering, they must damage, alter, or hide an object. If there is no proof that the evidence was damaged, there is no crime. If there is no proof that the evidence existed in the first place, then there can be no proof that it was damaged or hidden.
Awareness of an Investigation
Finally, for evidence tampering to occur, the perpetrator must be aware that there will be a potential investigation. If they aren’t aware that the object may be considered evidence, then they could not have intended to tamper with it to prevent that investigation.
Criminal tampering is a serious accusation. Evidence is important to the judicial system, and so tampering with it carries strict penalties. If you have been accused of tampering with evidence, reach out to an experienced Colorado attorney today to start building your defense. A qualified attorney might be the difference between a clean record and several years in prison.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012 & 2019” and a “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012-2020 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. Additionally, Expertise names her to its lists of the 25 Best Denver DUI Lawyers and 21 Best Denver Criminal Defense Lawyers, both in 2020. Ms. Diego has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.