When a crime takes place, everything associated with it — places, things, and data — can potentially serve as evidence. This tapestry of information, from the scene of the crime to the smallest piece of data, can all contribute to the unraveling of truth in a court of law.
However, if a person intentionally conceals or destroys any of these elements, they can face additional criminal penalties under California law. This act, known as the destruction or concealment of evidence, is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in county jail and fines up to $1,000.
If you or someone you know has been charged with destroying or hiding evidence, it is important to consult with a skilled criminal defense attorney at the earliest opportunity.
What is Destroying or Concealing Evidence?
The act of destroying or concealing evidence falls under California Penal Code 135 PC. To establish a violation of this law, prosecutors must prove three elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The accused knowingly destroyed or concealed physical evidence;
- They acted with the intent to prevent the evidence from being presented in court or used in an official proceeding;
- At the time of destruction or concealment, an official proceeding that might call for the evidence was pending or about to be instituted.
In essence, evidence refers to any item or information that could be used in a legal proceeding to ascertain the truth of an allegation. Concealment of evidence involves activities that render it unavailable or unfindable, while destruction pertains to actions that make evidence unusable, unrecognizable, or irretrievable.
Examples of Destroying or Concealing Evidence
Destruction or concealment of evidence can take on many forms. Here are some examples:
- Erasing data or files from a computer hard drive that might implicate a person in a cybercrime;
- Disposing of a weapon used in a crime to prevent its discovery by law enforcement;
- Removing blood stains from a crime scene;
- Fabricating false evidence to mislead an investigation or court proceeding.
It is important to note that these actions must be deliberate and with the intent to obstruct justice to fall under Penal Code 135 PC.
Penalties for Charges Under 135 PC
In California, the act of concealing or destroying evidence is a misdemeanor.
If convicted, the penalties under PC 135 can include up to six months in county jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. Additionally, conviction of this offense can also result in probation, community service, and a permanent criminal record which could impact future employment prospects or personal rights.
Defenses Against Destroying or Concealing Evidence Charges
Depending on the specific facts of your case, there are several defenses that a skilled criminal defense attorney can employ to contest these accusations. Here are some potential defenses:
- Lack of Knowledge: If the defendant didn’t know the item in question was evidence or didn’t realize an official proceeding was pending, it undermines the prosecution’s case.
- Lack of Intent: If the defendant did not intend to obstruct justice but acted out of fear, confusion, or other reasons, they may not be guilty under PC 135.
- Illegal Search and Seizure: If the evidence in question was discovered through an illegal search, it may be possible to suppress that evidence and weaken the prosecution’s case.
Each case is unique and requires a specific defense strategy, based on a detailed analysis of the facts and circumstances involved.
Facing charges for destroying or concealing evidence under California Penal Code 135 PC can be intimidating. If you or a loved one are facing such charges, time is of the essence. Call Robert M. Helfend at 800-834-6434 to discuss your case today.