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What Is Evidence Tampering?

Evidence tampering is an illegal action.
Moving anything in a crime scene can be evidence tampering.
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  • Written By: Diane Goettel
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 September 2014
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Evidence, in broad terms, is anything that can support the truth of a statement. In law, evidence is anything that can support a legal claim or, on the other hand, show that a legal claim is false. Evidence tampering is an illegal action in which evidence is either falsified, edited, or amended in order to support or undermine a legal claim.

Let's say, for example, that a person was being sued for refusing to pay a bill. If the person being sued altered the related invoice, statement, or bank records to make it seem as if he had paid the bill, that would be a clear case of evidence tampering. This is illegal and is punishable by law. Those who are convicted of this crime can be forced to pay fines and even serve time in jail or prison.

While documents can be tampered with, evidence tampering can also involve physical evidence. When police are investigating a crime scene, it is important that the space is secured and that no one alters the scene until professionals can examine everything. Removing or even repositioning anything within a crime scene is evidence tampering. In fact, placing new items within a crime scene is also tampering with evidence.

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One of the main reasons that people tamper with evidence is to change the perception of past events. The 2002 film Insomnia starring Al Pacino, Hilary Swank, and Robin Williams is a film largely based on evidence tampering. In the movie, Al Pacino's character is a police officer named Will Dormer who is guilty of planting evidence. In the film, Will Dormer accidentally shoots and kills a colleague while pursuing a suspect in a murder case. While trying to bring the murderer to justice, he also plants evidence against him in an attempt to reassign blame for his colleague's death.

It is not always possible to figure out whether or not evidence has been tampered with. This is especially true if evidence has been destroyed. If documents which can be used as evidence have been shredded or burned, for example, it can be very difficult to restore them enough to decipher their original text. It is also not always possible to tell if a piece of evidence has been falsified. Evidence tampering can seriously change the course of legal decisions and proceedings and can even lead to punishments for innocent parties or gains for guilty parties.

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Discuss this Article

friscopaul
Post 11

Evidence tampering is a felony.

anon927433
Post 10

What if a guy charges you for harassment but edits the emails he submitted against you? I don't want to get him in trouble so I haven't presented the originals. If I am still harassed what happens to him when he changed them?

anon350713
Post 9

If the examiner tampers with evidence, how is it detected?

anon301066
Post 8

Is deleting cctv tampering? Because that's what the police did!!

anon285975
Post 6

The public defender also said that the evidence was not present and I have not used any mind altering substance in three or four years. I was there. I realized I was being investigated and decided I wanted to help the cops. Now they are trying to arrest me and charge me with the sale, when I not only helped make that bust, but provided more info as to where his king pin was, as well as his race, nationality and the amount of money they both were making and I offered to help in future endeavors as well.

anon285972
Post 5

I helped local police in Smyrna, Tennessee with a drug sting at Wal-Mart. I saved a message to my phone and my friend found with me and the CI were making a deal to work together. Someone has gone out of their way to bring this two year old event up and delete crucial peaces of evidence that keep me in the clear and on the right side of the law. Now it has been too long to recover my evidence that proves I was working with the CI to make a bust on another man.

anon283189
Post 4

What could you do if a bar edited a video to get out of a lawsuit after a bar fight with a bouncer?

CopperPipe
Post 3

I have always wondered how directly tampering with evidence affects the verdict. In TV shows, it's always kind of the ace in the hole for the defense team, or it is the last minute Deux ex machina that the writers use to make the plot work out -- is this really true in real life, or is it not really that dramatic?

zenmaster
Post 2

The unfortunate prevalence of evidence tampering is what makes evidence tracking so important. Since evidence can basically make or break a verdict, proper evidence tracking, storage, and handling is crucial, which is why the standards are so harsh for people messing with evidence.

rallenwriter
Post 1

Wow, I never knew how many little tricks there were to tampering with trial evidence. I wonder how they check up on e-mail evidence or electronic computer evidence. I know there are time stamps and what not, but wouldn't it be kind of easier to mess with electronic evidence documents, especially in areas where electronic discovery and evidence collection is not that up to date?

Of course, I'm not at all planning on doing any criminal tampering, but just out of curiosity, how would that work?

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