WHAT IS FALSIFYING PHYSICAL EVIDENCE?
It is easier than you think! And much less sophisticated than you might imagine.
When you first hear the words “falsifying physical evidence” what do you imagine? Maybe you envision scenes from movies where desperate sweaty men in skyscraper offices, wearing white shirts and loose neckties (matching their suspenders). They are swigging scotch and shredding tax documents in the middle of the night from their skyscraper office buildings.
Maybe you imagine a woman driving over a bridge and throwing a recently used pistol or knife into the river below.
While Hollywood loves to depict “Falsifying Physical Evidence” as an obvious and sometimes sophisticated crime, the reality is that Falsifying Physical Evidence is an easy crime to commit and an even easier crime of which to be accused.
For example, imagine you have just been stopped by police for speeding. Maybe you were drinking from a small bottle or cup. Inside that bottle/cup is a soda and some whiskey. You are not drunk. You think you would pass a breath test. You believe that you could pass the field sobriety tests while singing Disney show tunes. But, you just don’t want to be hassled by the police officer. You don’t want to be ticketed or arrested for driving with an open container of alcohol. So, you quietly put the passenger-side window down and throw the liquid in the bottle/cup out the window. Guess what? You just committed Falsifying Physical Evidence.
How can that be? Throwing a small (albeit a factually inconvenient) out the window is hardly equal to Obstructing Justice or burning bodies! Is it? Well, let’s look at the law. According to New Hampshire RSA 641:6:
A person commits a class B felony if, believing that an official proceeding, as defined in RSA 641:1, II, or investigation is pending or about to be instituted, he:
- Alters, destroys, conceals or removes any thing with a purpose to impair its verity or availability in such proceeding or investigation; or
- Makes, presents or uses any thing which he knows to be false with a purpose to deceive a public servant who is or may be engaged in such proceeding or investigation.
Let’s ponder another scenario. Maybe you are at a house party. The police knock on the door to investigate a noise complaint. That marijuana joint you have in your hand is probably going to cause you some legal problems if the police see you with it. So, you run to the bathroom and flush that joint down the toilet. Yup, you committed Falsifying Physical Evidence here too. If an item or a physical object is evidence of a crime or tends to prove your guilt – its concealment or destruction is very much Falsifying Physical Evidence under the law.
Here’s an increasingly common scenario whereby defendants and alleged victims all get themselves into trouble during the course of a case following an arrest. You have concerns about something the police or a prosecutor want to read or see on your cell phone. So, you delete your texts and do a factory reset on your phone. You just committed Falsifying Physical Evidence, and worse – you just lost all of your Tinder matches too!
BOTTOM LINE: The law against Falsifying Physical Evidence exists so as to discourage and punish people from hiding/destroying physical evidence that could reasonably lead to an arrest/a conviction for a crime/or possibly to the acquittal and vindication of someone.
It does seem counter-intuitive though, doesn’t it? I mean, doesn’t everyone want to minimize their risk of arrest? Don’t Americans have the right to not incriminate themselves? How is this a crime? It's one thing to bribe witnesses, intimidate jurors, and shred incriminating documents. But to just toss a joint or bottle of booze? How is that a crime – its my stuff, after all!?
At OSBORNE LAW, we hear what you are saying. Attorney Mark Osborne hears these questions all the time. But, all personal opinions aside, the law says you can’t hide or destroy, “any thing with a purpose to impair its verity or availability in such proceeding or investigation.”
And, as for your right to not incriminate yourself – that only pertains to your right to remain silent when: 1) questioned by police AND 2) your right to not be forced to testify at trial.
So, while you have the right to remain silent about where certain physical evidence might be (or what it is) – you, under the law, DO NOT have the right to hide or destroy the evidence if you think it is likely to be of interest to law enforcement during a present or future investigation.
If you are accused of Falsifying or Destroying Physical Evidence, call OSBORNE LAW right away. You can talk to Attorney Mark Osborne and tell him what you are being accused of hiding or destroying. There may very well be a solid defense available to you.
If you think you are holding onto “evidence” per se and don’t know what to do (or to not do), call Attorney Mark Osborne at OSBORNE LAW. All discussions are confidential and subject to ATTORNEY CLIENT PRIVILEGE.
One last thought! Sometimes people anticipate that they will be accused of a crime. So, they start hiding and destroying things that they believe to be evidence of guilt. Please note that doing so can make you look more guilty (and may raise more eye brows) than if you had just not touched or destroyed anything. Often times, physical evidence is important, necessary, and very helpful to your defense! Physical evidence that you think makes you look guilty may in fact prove your innocence and keep you out of jail and free from being arrested in the first place!
So, don’t jump the gun (or destroy it or hide it for that matter). Call OSBORNE LAW for a free consultation if you or someone you care about is worried about physical objects and evidence.