Tampering with evidence, or evidence tampering, is an act in which a person alters, conceals, falsifies, or destroys evidence with the intent to interfere with an investigation (usually) by a law-enforcement, governmental, or regulatory authority. It is a criminal offense in many jurisdictions.
Tampering with evidence is closely related to the legal issue of spoliation of evidence, which is usually the civil law or due process version of the same concept (but may itself be a crime). Tampering with evidence is also closely related to obstruction of justice and perverting the course of justice, and these two kinds of crimes are often charged together. The goal of tampering with evidence is usually to cover up a crime.
When police confiscate and destroy a citizen's photographs or recordings of officers' misconduct, the police's act of destroying the evidence may be prosecuted as an act of evidence tampering, if the recordings being destroyed are potential evidence in a criminal or regulatory investigation of the officers themselves. In a notable case in Nebraska, officers were charged with the felony charge of evidence tampering, as well as misdemeanor obstruction and theft, when they committed brutality and forcibly stole and destroyed the recordings, which was exposed due to a third party's recording. On the other hand, when police departments lose exonerating evidence that would create reasonable doubt for defendants in the cases they prosecute, such as dashboard-camera footage from patrol cars, it may be regarded as spoliation of evidence, potentially justifying motions to dismiss and/or mistrials. Police's loss of evidence such as footage may be considered as both spoliation and tampering, if it both exonerates the defendant and proves police misconduct. Spoliation of exonerating evidence in criminal cases may also constitute prosecutorial misconduct if the prosecutor is complicit in doing so.
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