Planting, Altering Or Concealing Physical Evidence – California Penal Code 141 PC
I do bump up against this once in a while where people are planting or altering evidence. I've been doing this for twenty-five years across Los Angeles County and many other jurisdictions and this comes up in a number of different areas.
A lot of times I actually see police planting or altering evidence. I have represented a few police officers in relation to this particular crime. But, when it involves a civilian being charged as a defendant in one of the Los Angles criminal courts related to this charge of planting, altering or concealing evidence, it probably has to do with somebody who has committed a crime – maybe they or their family members are trying to somehow get rid of evidence – whether they're getting rid of some sort of clothes or some sort of property, and they're doing it because they realize if that evidence is obtained by the police, then they're going to end up getting prosecuted for a crime.
When it comes to the defense of somebody who is charged with tampering with evidence, you're usually going to see a situation — assuming it's not the police who are being charged with planting or tampering with evidence — where somebody who is a family member of another person decides that they're going to start moving a crime scene around in order to help their loved one, so maybe they take a weapon or they do something else to help the defendant in the case, and then the police find out about it, then they can get you for tampering with evidence.
The same holds true that if you were — after a crime has occurred — to move something around or add something to the crime scene like a weapon or something else, then you could be charged with planting evidence.
We usually don't see a lot of these cases filed because it's very difficult to prove. In other words, they actually need an eyewitness or some other evidence that shows that you planted or tampered with evidence and violated Penal Code Section 141 in Los Angeles.
So, if you're charged with altering evidence, any physical evidence, or planning any physical evidence in Los Angeles county – obviously you're going to want to get in front of me, because this is not a really easy crime for the prosecutors to prove and a lot of times people have some good defenses that they can utilize in defending one of these cases pursuant to Penal Code Section 141.
Tampering with Fingerprints or DNA Evidence
Without the evidence, there's no way the prosecutors can prove tampering or planting evidence. But there are circumstances where I've seen it — and I've been doing this for twenty-five years — where someone again is messing around with a crime scene and somehow — because of fingerprints or DNA or a witness — the prosecutors and police are able to figure this out, they will then prosecute that person because they don't want anybody tampering around with evidence of a crime.
These terms are used kind of in conjunction with accessory after the fact – like if you help somebody in any way and you're tampering with evidence or you're putting evidence in that shouldn't be there, then you too could be complicit in the crime and be charged with planting or tampering with evidence. You could be charged with accessory after the fact. You could even be charged with conspiracy if you know about the whole crime and you were in on it from the beginning.
Tampering with Evidence by Law Enforcement
So, if you're charged with this serious crime of planting evidence, you're going to need to get an attorney immediately. If you're a law enforcement officer and you're charged with this, you should seek consultation as fast as possible, because once you start messing around with the fabric of our criminal justice system by planting evidence or tampering with any evidence, this is where the prosecutors and police become very angry and judges also become angry when they sentence people who tamper with evidence.
So, you're going to want to get an attorney. Go in and tell them all the facts about what happened. I get you in and we talk about everything and it's protected by the attorney/client privilege, so you can feel free to speak honestly and we can really get to the bottom of what's going on, because sometimes the police don't have the full story about this planting or tampering with evidence and they only have part of the story and you going to try to talk to the police yourself to clear things up is usually not a good idea.
Number one, you might partially be admitting to a crime by doing that, and number two, sometimes your words can get twisted and taken out of context and put you in a bad position where you're unable to get yourself out of it and the police are claiming that you said something that you really didn't say.
Unless there's audio or videotape of your statement to the police, you've really done a disservice to yourself. ‘whether it a planting or tampering with evidence pursuant to Penal Code Section 141 or any other crime in Los Angeles.
I typically see the most valuable evidence for the prosecutors and the most difficult evidence to get around for the defense is when somebody talks to the police, and they either have an audio of it, a video of it, or you've got the police claiming that you said certain things.
That is the best evidence and that's the evidence juries will hang their hat on. Sometimes we can use that in a defense case as well, but most of the time it's someone foolishly trying to talk their way out of a crime that ends up being the quicksand that sinks them.
Defenses to Planting, Altering or Concealing Physical Evidence
Obviously, people who are charged with crimes are entitled to get their own evidence. They can do their own investigation. So, this is one potential defense in one of these prosecutions is listen, yeah, I was involved with the evidence because I was getting it for my own defense so that I can defend myself and there's certainly nothing wrong with that.
Where you get into a problem is where you actually start to try to destroy evidence, hide evidence from the police, and somehow alter certain evidence so that the police can't get it – whether it be in a computer or some other area. So, these cases are not that easy to prove.
When it comes to the defenses in concealing, altering or planting evidence, you really need to sit down with a seasoned criminal defense attorney. I've been doing this a long time. I get all the information out. A lot of times there's a rush-to-judgment in these cases and the person is prosecuted, but they can't meet the elements of Penal Code Section 141.
They're not able to show that anyone has altered anything, planted or concealed it and they're really not even able to show that the defendant has done anything wrong, but someone has told some story about them and there was a rush-to-judgment and they didn't do an investigation.
They didn't get the defendant's version of events, and so now the person is charged with a crime. Now you have to get a criminal defense attorney in there to fight for you – to assert your rights – to show them that they don't have a good case against you and show them that you have a defense and you can fight the case.
Developing a Defense Strategy for Best Outcome
What I have you do is I have you to come in the office and we go over everything. I encourage you to be honest so I can have a fair account of what actually happened, and then I can figure out exactly what type of a defense might apply to you and whether your case should go to jury trial, or if on the other hand, they do have some sort of evidence that you planted evidence, you altered evidence or you concealed evidence in some way, then we're going to figure out how to do damage control.
We're going to get your version of events across to the prosecutor and police because they don't always get the other side. They only get a one-sided version of what happened. Once your version is put in there, now they have something else to consider. Now they have something to think about.
We get a mitigation package together and we show them – listen, here's what's really going on. Here's who this person really is. Please don't put them in jail. Don't ruin their life. Don't ruin their career. Don't put a mark on their record that they can't get off.
I have a goal in all the criminal cases I do to get you out of the criminal justice system as fast as possible, to protect your freedom, your rights, your reputation and do everything possible to get your story across and get you the best possible result.