PC 135

Destroying or Concealing Evidence

California Penal Code 135[1] makes it illegal to destroy or conceal any evidence, written or physical, that you know is relevant to either a criminal investigation or court case. The two elements of the crime are:

  1. That you destroyed or concealed evidence that you knew was going to be used as part of the investigation.
  2. That you destroyed or concealed the evidence willfully.

If the prosecutor can prove that you are guilty of both of these elements of the crime then you will be convicted of the misdemeanor and face up to:

  • Up to 6-months in jail
  • Up to $1,000 in fines

Prosecuting Destroying or Concealing Evidence

To fully understand how you can be convicted of this crime it’s imperative to have a full understanding of the language used in the penal code. As previously stated, the two elements of the crime the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt are:

  1. That you destroyed or concealed evidence that you knew was going to be used as part of the investigation.
  2. That you destroyed or concealed the evidence willfully.

The first element of the crime requires that you knew that the evidence was going to be used as part of the investigation. In other words, you cannot be convicted of the crime if you simply threw something away prior to an pending investigation if you didn’t know an investigation was taking place.

It’s important to note that evidence can pertain to a plethora of items, but putting it in simple terms is anything that could be pertinent to an investigation. For example, drugs or drug paraphernalia, articles of clothing that were worn while committing a crime, any weapons used to commit a crime, or any documents that have information regarding to a crime, just to name a few.

The second element of the crime requires that you willfully destroyed or concealed the evidence. In accordance to California law, willfully means the same thing as deliberately or on purpose. Basically, all the prosecutor has to do is prove that you did not accidentally destroy or conceal any evidence in order to satisfy the second element of the crime.

It’s important to note that in order to be convicted of CA Penal Code 135 you needed to have successfully destroyed or concealed the evidence in some way. If you failed in your attempt to destroy the evidence then it is not a crime, but if you do destroy the evidence in some way then you can still be convicted.

Furthermore, in order to be convicted of the crime of destroying or concealing evidence, you must have performed the crime on evidence that pertains to any legal proceeding, such as:

  • A criminal trial
  • A parole board hearing or violation hearing
  • A civil trial
  • A police investigation of illegal activity taking place in a jail or prison
  • A criminal investigation that has yet to result in an arrest

If the prosecutor can prove each of the elements beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury then you will be convicted of CA Penal Code 135.

Defending Destroying or Concealing Evidence

There are several common legal defenses for CA Penal Code 135 that a skilled criminal defense attorney can explore to prove your innocence in court. The first and most common for this type of case is the mistake of fact defense. As previously mentioned, in order to be convicted of the crime you must have knowingly destroyed evidence that was pertinent to the case. So, if your attorney can prove that you didn’t know the evidence was going to be a part of the investigation then you won’t be convicted.

Secondly, if you didn’t successfully destroy the evidence then you cannot be convicted of CA Penal Code 135. CA Penal Code 135 is not like other California crimes where you can be charged for attempting to commit a crime. To be eligible for conviction under CA Penal Code 135 you must have successfully destroyed or concealed the evidence. It then becomes the job of your attorney to prove to the court that the evidence was not destroyed.

These are only two of the most common legal defenses for CA Penal Code 135 and may not pertain to your case but don’t worry. A skilled criminal defense attorney will know the proper investigational procedures and legal defenses that pertain to your case.

If you are facing CA Penal Code 135 charges then it’s important to discuss the charges with an effective criminal defense lawyer like Seppi Esfandi. He has over 13 years of experience defending clients for a myriad of criminal matter, including destroying and concealing evidence. Don’t hesitate to call for a FREE case evaluation.

 

References

[1] Every person who, knowing that any book, paper, record, instrument in writing, or other matter or thing, is about to be produced in evidence upon any trial, inquiry, or investigation whatever, authorized by law, willfully destroys or conceals the same, with intent thereby to prevent it from being produced, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

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