Tex. Pen. Code § 37.09 addresses the criminal offense of tampering with or fabricating physical evidence. Individuals commit this offense when they take any of the following actions when they know that an official investigation or proceeding is pending or in process:
- Alter, destroy, or conceal any record, document, or thing, with intent to impair its verity, legibility, or availability as evidence in the investigation or proceeding
- Make, present, or use any record, document, or thing with knowledge of its falsity and with intent to affect the course or outcome of the investigation or official proceeding
This code section makes exceptions for those who conceal privileged information or work product that is incident to a formal investigation or prosecution. This offense is a third-degree felony under Texas law unless the thing destroyed, altered, or concealed is a human corpse, in which case the crime is a second-degree felony. A third-degree felony conviction can result in a prison sentence ranging from two to ten years, as well as a $10,000 fine. A second-degree felony conviction, however, can result in a prison sentence of two to 20 years in addition to the $10,000 fine.
Tampering with evidence also may occur when individuals:
- Know that an offense has been committed and alter, destroy, or conceal any record with the intent to impair its verity, legibility, or availability as evidence in a subsequent official investigation or proceeding
- Fail to report the existence of a human corpse under circumstances under which they know or reasonably should know that a law enforcement agency is unaware of the corpse
Altering, destroying, or concealing evidence when you know that a crime has been committed under this section also is a third-degree felony. However, the failure to report a corpse to law enforcement is a Class A misdemeanor offense. Conviction on a Class A misdemeanor offense can result in a jail sentence of up to one year and a fine of $4,000.
If you or a family member is facing criminal charges, we may be able to help. As experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys, we have the knowledge needed to help you navigate through often-complex criminal proceedings. Call us today at (512) 474-4445 and schedule an appointment with one of our criminal defense lawyers and learn how we can assist you.