How Fabricating Evidence Can Land You In Serious Legal Jeopardy
If you know that you are under investigation for a possible crime, the one thing you should never do is try and destroy or alter the evidence. Indeed, even if you are never charged with the crime under investigation, the act of tampering with–or fabricating–physical evidence is itself a criminal act under the Texas Penal Code. This can include any attempt to “create” evidence that you think might help exonerate you later.
Attorney Convicted of Felony Evidence Tampering After Trying to Cover Up Underage Drinking
A rather unusual case from Galveston, Lavalle v. State, provides an interesting example of what we are talking about. The defendant in this case is an attorney. The defendant was friends with a woman who had a 17-year-old daughter named Sandy. At various points, Sandy and her mother lived with the defendant and he regularly cared for her. In April 2017, the mother signed a power of attorney giving the defendant authority to make parental decisions for Sandy.
During Sandy’s numerous stays at the defendant’s home, he allowed her to consume alcohol. During one such instance in September 2018, Sandy posted a photo of herself drinking alcohol on Snapchat. Sandy’s mother saw this and contacted the police. When officers later questioned Sandy, she denied she had actually been drinking. The police took no further action at that time. Sandy later said she lied to the police so the defendant would not get in trouble.
Several weeks later, Sandy and a teenage friend were babysitting another girl. The group went to the defendant’s house and started drinking. A police officer arrived later that evening to perform a “welfare check.” Again, no formal action was taken.
However, the defendant then asked Sandy to sign an affidavit that contained a number of statements that expressly denied the defendant ever gave or permitted her to consume alcohol in his house. The defendant apparently gave this affidavit to the police. When questioned by detectives, Sandy said that most of the statements in the affidavit were false.
Prosecutors subsequently charged the defendant with two felony counts of tampering with or fabricating evidence. (The defendant also allegedly asked Sandy’s friend to sign a similar affidavit.) A jury found the defendant guilty on both counts. The court did not send the defendant to jail but placed him on probation for 5 years.
On appeal, the defendant argued that there was insufficient evidence to support the convictions because he did not know there was an active criminal investigation pending–a necessary element of an evidence tampering charge. The 14th District rejected this argument and ultimately upheld the defendant’s conviction. The appellate court said the evidence showed the defendant knew he was under investigation for furnishing alcohol to a minor. Indeed, that is why he asked them to sign the false affidavits. The prosecution did not need to prove, however, that the defendant actually committed the crime of furnishing alcohol to a minor.
Contact Pearland Criminal Defense Attorney Keith French Today
If the police are asking you questions, the best thing you can do is keep your mouth closed and call a lawyer right away. Do not take the law–and especially any potential evidence–into your own hands. If you need to speak with an experienced Pearland criminal defense attorney, contact Keith B. French Law, PLLC, today to schedule a consultation.