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Elements required for charge of tampering with physical evidence

Tampering with evidence is a criminal act in most jurisdictions across the country. In the state of Washington, tampering with physical evidence is made illegal by statute. The elements of the offense are similar in many jurisdictions. In most states, generally speaking, the prosecution must prove intent, knowledge, evidence and an awareness of a pending or potential investigation to secure a conviction for evidence tampering.

The state of mind of the accused is of primary importance for an evidence tampering charge. Prosecutors must demonstrate that evidence was interfered with on purpose as accidental interference is not sufficient. The element of knowledge is satisfied if the accused is shown to have acted knowingly with an awareness that their actions are likely to bring about the destruction of evidence or otherwise alter evidence.

Evidence in this context is defined to mean any kind of object that might be introduced during any legal proceeding or investigation. It may also include digital photographs or audio or video recordings. The prosecution must also demonstrate that the accused tampered with evidence in contemplation of a future or current legal proceeding.

Actions that may constitute tampering include altering, destroying, concealing or removing an object in order to hide or obscure the truth or to make the object unavailable to law enforcement. Presenting or using an object in order to deceive a party to the investigation may also constitute tampering.

A charge of evidence tampering may be either a felony or a misdemeanor. In a situation where an individual has been charged with tampering with physical evidence or another crime, an attorney may be able to help by developing alternate theories of the case or by attempting to negotiate a plea bargain with prosecutors. An attorney with experience in criminal defense might conduct witness interviews to prepare for trial or argue on the client's behalf during trial.

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