Evidence plays a vital role in any criminal case, for both the defense and the prosecution. Types of evidence include testimony, documents, and any other objects that lend to showing a person is innocent or guilty of the charges against them.
This is why tampering with any evidence is treated as a crime. One action — or inaction really, that you might not know is a crime of tampering with evidence? Not reporting a dead body!
You read that right! If you stumble upon human remains, and you refrain from reporting them to authorities, then you have committed a crime for which there are serious penalties.
Take this as a warning. Learn below what it means to tamper with evidence in a way that intuitively feels like not tampering at all, and what can happen if you inadvertently commit this crime in Texas.
Tampering With Texas Evidence
Under Texas law, you tamper with evidence when you alter, hide, or destroy any object that could help with a criminal investigation of a crime by law enforcement or evidence that could otherwise have been presented in a courtroom during a trial by either side of the case.
The statute that defines tampering with evidence doesn’t simply cover concealing or destroying objects, though. It also prohibits the presentation of false information that could alter the outcome of an investigation.
So where does finding a cadaver and failing to report come in? Texas law has itemized this specific crime all on its own.
Failure to Report a Corpse in Texas
Another way you can tamper with evidence, as previously mentioned, is by failing to report a corpse. Even if you don’t hide, falsely present, or destroy the body, you can still be charged with tampering with evidence by taking the following actions:
- Seeing the corpse and being able to “reasonably” surmise the person’s death resulted from some sort of criminal offense;
- Knowing that law enforcement doesn’t yet know of it; and
- Not reporting what you’ve found.
When you see a corpse your first instinct may be to turn right back around and do what you can to forget about it. Don’t do it. Texas law requires that you report it to the police.
If you’ve been accused of tampering with evidence and need help explaining yourself to the courts, reach out to an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney for representation.
Texas Penalties for Evidence Tampering
If you don’t report it after you’ve found a dead body, then understand that Tampering with evidence crimes carry pretty harsh criminal penalties.
Most of the time, this crime is charged as either a Class A misdemeanor or a third-degree felony, both of which could cost you time in prison and thousands of dollars in fines. Find specifics below.
If you destroy, conceal, falsify, or alter evidence that you know has been part of an offense, then you can be charged with a felony. That can result in 10 years in prison and fines of as much as $10,000. If a corpse is an object destroyed, then it increases to a second-degree felony that can result in up to 20 years in prison and fines of as much as $10,000.
Class A Misdemeanor
Seeing a corpse and not reporting it is a Class A misdemeanor. If found guilty of this offense, then you can face up to 12 months in jail and files of as much as $4,000.
Time Limits on Charging You with Evidence Tampering
A statute of limitations exists for evidence tampering in the state of Texas. That means that after a specified amount of time has passed, you cannot be charged with a crime in connection to the case in question.
For evidence tampering, the statute of limitations depends on how it is charged. For misdemeanors, the police have two years to bring charges against you. For felony charges, the police have three years.
Understanding the law and your rights within it is important to help keep you from facing charges related to evidence tampering.
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth. He has been recognized for his work by Expertise (Best Criminal Defense Lawyers in Forth Worth and Best DUI Lawyers in Fort Worth, both 2020), The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.