It is only natural that people who are in a committed relationship want and support or protect a loved one who is facing difficulty. But when such action involves a criminal charge, trying to help the person by tampering with evidence can lead to more trouble as well as life-changing consequences if convicted.
Evidence tampering in Arizona covers a range of unlawful actions. These include altering, concealing, destroying, or falsifying any type of physical or computer evidence related to a criminal case and swaying or intimidating witnesses.
These acts are felonies, and it does not matter if the criminal case is at trial, under investigation, or still pending. The prosecution will allege evidence tampering if a criminal case cannot be brought forward because the evidence in the case no longer exists.
Tampering with physical evidence falls under Arizona Revised Statute §13-2809
, which states that a person who knowingly destroys, mutilates, alters, conceals, or removes physical evidence is committing a Class 6 felony.
Elements of evidence tampering
To have a solid case, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the four elements that comprise evidence tampering:
A person must have willfully and purposefully destroyed or hidden evidence. Accidentally discarding evidence is insufficient to prove intent.
A person acted knowing that a good chance of damaging the state’s case existed.
An object, digital image, video, or document would be introduced in a legal proceeding.
A person must have known that the evidence would be used in a current or potential investigation.
Tampering with a computer or a computer system or network, known as hacking, is addressed in Arizona Revised Statute §13-2316
. A person who accesses, alters, damages, or destroys a computer or its network intending to defraud, deceive, or execute a scheme under fraudulent pretenses is charged with a Class 3 felony.
Should the computer network that is part of a critical infrastructure, the seriousness is raised to a more serious Class 2 felony.
Tampering with a witness in a criminal case, or even a civil case, happens when a person knowingly attempts or succeeds in a witness withholding testimony, lying when testifying, when a witness does not answer a summons to testify in an official proceeding or evades a summons or a subpoena.
Tampering can include threatening the witness or a member of the witness’ family by offering money or goods or threatening to publicly expose embarrassing information about the witness.
Tampering with a witness is a violation of Arizona Revised Statute §13-2804
and is a Class 6 felony.
Ramifications of an evidence tampering felony conviction
Arizona Revised Statute §13 702
has ranges of felony punishments: mitigated, minimum, presumptive, maximum, and aggravated in the non-dangerous offense category.
A prison sentence for a first-time offender convicted of a non-dangerous Class 6 felony is a minimum of six months, one year for a presumptive range with a maximum penalty of 1.5 years, and an aggravated conviction is two years.
A Class 3 first-time felony range is 2.5 years in prison, 3.5 years in the presumptive category, and a maximum of seven years with five years of probation after time served.
A Class 2 first-time felony is punished by a minimum of four years in prison, five years in the presumptive range, and a maximum of 10 years plus seven years of probation after time served.
In addition to incarceration, hefty fines can be imposed.
Restrictions for a felony conviction
Beyond a prison sentence, a convicted felon will face life-changing restrictions. Those who are convicted of a felony will lose their constitutional right to have and possess a firearm and will lose the right to vote in elections, hold public office, join the military or serve on a jury.
It will also be difficult to find a job or keep a current job or rent a place to live because landlords have an obligation to protect their renters. Convicted offenders who have a professional license will face license revocation, ending a chosen career.
The court will order a three-year term of probation, placing further restrictions on the offender’s life if probation is violated.
A felony conviction will remain on the public record, available to anyone to see for life, although new Arizona law allows a felony conviction to be removed from the public record after a lengthy waiting period.
Witness tampering defenses
The defense centers on intent. It is not illegal to talk to a witness without intending to influence the person but only to seek the truth. Talking to a witness to encourage the witness to testify, and to do so truthfully, is also legal.
Evidence that is determined to be inadmissible in court for legal reasons is not a defense to tampering with evidence.
Communicating with a witness that did not happen. The person accused of talking to a witness never met the witness before the trial began.
Accidental destruction of evidence, such as a family member or house cleaning service putting it in the trash, cannot be prosecuted because there was no intent.
Aaron M. Black Law for Evidence Tampering defense
If you or someone you care about has been charged or is under investigation for evidence tampering, it is best to be immediately represented by a seasoned criminal defense attorney such as myself to protect your constitutional rights.
In my career as an aggressive defense attorney, I know that good people can find themselves in legal trouble, and that is why I work diligently to ensure they have the best defense possible by scrutinizing the state’s evidence and the personnel records of the investigators involved looking for inconsistencies. I also will work to develop information and evidence that is favorable to the defendant.
At Aaron M. Black Law, you will receive personalized legal services. You will always be talking directly to me, never an assistant, at every step of your case.
Begin your evidence tampering defense by calling 480-729-1683 any time on any day, and I will respond promptly unless I am in court. Or use the online contact form
on my website.
I defend evidence tampering charges throughout Arizona, including Maricopa, Pinal, Yavapai, and Coconino County Superior Courts.