Washington law makes it a crime for you to destroy any physical evidence that is to be presented in a legal proceeding. This criminal offense is a serious misdemeanor under the law that can result in a one-year jail term. Please contact a skilled criminal defense attorney now if you or a loved one is facing any type of tampering with evidence charge.
What is Washington’s Law on Destruction of Evidence?
RCW 9A.72.150 is the Washington statute that sets forth the crime of destruction of evidence. Per this law, you commit a criminal offense if you:
- Destroy, mutilate, conceal, remove, or alter any physical evidence,
- Do so with the intent to impair the evidence’s appearance, character, or availability, and
- Have reason to believe that the evidence is to be used in an official legal proceeding.
For the purposes of this crime, “physical evidence” includes any article, object, document, record, or other thing of physical substance.
What Are the Penalties?
Destroying evidence is a gross misdemeanor under Washington law. The crime is punishable by:
- Custody in jail for up to one year, and/or
- A maximum fine of $5,000.
Can a Defendant Raise a Legal Defense?
Yes. You have the right to challenge a destruction of evidence charge with a legal defense. A common defense is for you to show that you did not act with criminal intent. Recall that you are only guilty of this crime if you destroy evidence with the specific intent to impair the evidence’s appearance or availability. This means that you can defend against a charge by showing that you did not act with this purpose.
Consider, for example, the case where you are in possession of a contract that you believe might be used as evidence in a civil legal proceeding. You are going through some paperwork one day in your office and you throw the contract out by accident. Here, you are not guilty of a crime because, while you may have removed this evidence, you did not act with the specific intent to make it unavailable in court.
Another common defense is to show that you had no knowledge of a pending legal proceeding. Recall that you are only guilty of this crime if you destroy evidence while having reason to believe that the evidence could be used in a pending legal proceeding. A defense, then, is to show that you had no reason to believe that a legal proceeding was pending.
Contact Black & Askerov for Help
While a defendant can raise a legal defense to challenge a destruction of evidence charge, it will take a skilled criminal defense attorney to raise the best defense. The experienced criminal defense attorneys at Black & Askerov have over 30 years of combined experience defending clients on tampering with evidence charges. Our Seattle criminal defense lawyers also have the skill and commitment that makes all the difference in these cases. Our attorneys will fight tooth and nail for you at every step of your case. Contact us now to get the legal help you deserve!