California Penal Code 141 PC makes it a crime to tamper with or to plant evidence in any legal matter. Since evidence is often crucial in criminal cases, tampering is considered a serious offense.
PC 141 says, “(a) anyone who knowingly, willfully, intentionally, and wrongfully alters, modifies, plants, places, manufactures, conceals, or moves any physical matter, digital image, or video recording, with the intent that the action will result in someone being charged with a crime or that the physical matter will be wrongfully produced as genuine or true upon a trial, proceeding, or inquiry, is guilty of a misdemeanor.”
Subsection (b) describes a situation where a police officer commits the same acts described above, a felony offense that carries two, three, or five years in state prison.
Subsection (c) describes a situation where a prosecuting attorney acts in bad faith by intentionally modifying or concealing any evidence or information, which also carries up to three years in prison.
Tampering or planting evidence is considered an obstruction of justice and a “wobbler” that can be filed as a misdemeanor or felony crime based on the case details. Let's review this state law further below.
What Does the Law Say?
As noted, PC 141 makes it a crime for someone to knowingly and intentionally modify, plant, conceal, manufacture, or move evidence to make someone appear guilty of a crime or to give false evidence in a trial, hearing, or other types of legal proceedings. Any of the following are considered evidence:
- Physical objects;
- Digital images;
- Video recordings.
Notably, planting or tampering with evidence applies to criminal matters, civil trials, and almost any other types of legal proceedings.
Simply put, suppose you are a civilian who plants or tampers with any physical objects, digital images, or video that might be used as evidence in a legal issue. In that case, you could be charged with violating Penal Code 141 PC.
Suppose you are a police officer or prosecutor who tampers with evidence. In that case, you could be charged under the same law but would face harsher penalties.
What Are the Related Crimes?
Several California crimes are related to Penal Code 141 PC planting or tampering with evidence, including the following:
- Penal Code 132 PC offering false evidence is a felony crime that carries up to three years in state prison for presenting forged, faked, or manipulated evidence in a legal proceeding, trial, or inquiry;
- Penal Code 134 PC preparing false evidence is also a felony crime that carries up to three years for preparing falsified evidence that you intend to present as true, even if you do not present it;
- Penal Code 135 PC destroying evidence is a misdemeanor crime that carries up to six months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000 for intentionally hiding or destroying anything that you know could be used as evidence in any legal proceeding;
- Penal Code 118 PC perjury.
What Are the Penalties for PC 141?
Suppose you are a civilian convicted of violating PC 141. In that case, it's a misdemeanor crime that carries up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $1000.
Suppose you are a prosecuting attorney or law enforcement officer convicted of violating PC 141. In that case, the penalties are more severe and include the following:
- Prosecutors will face 16 months, two, or three years in state prison.
- Police officers will face two, three, or five years in state prison.
What Are the Defenses for PC 141?
Suppose you have been accused of planting or tampering with evidence. In that case, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers can use different strategies to obtain the best possible outcome, as discussed below.
Maybe we can argue that there was no intent to tamper with evidence. Recall that it must be proven that you willfully planted or tampered with the evidence for deceptive reasons.
Maybe you were unaware that your actions were changing the evidence. Perhaps we can argue that you did not know your actions were a crime and make a mistake of fact argument.
Maybe we can argue that the evidence was misidentified and was not planted or tampered with. Perhaps we can say that you are the victim of a false allegation.
Let's say another person tampered with or planted evidence and then blamed you for concealing their illegal behavior. Maybe we can show the prosecutor there is insufficient evidence to obtain a conviction against you, and they are forced to drop the case.
Maybe we can negotiate for a reduced charge or persuade the prosecutor during prefiling intervention not to file formal criminal charges in the first place, called a “DA reject.” You can reach us by phone or using the contact form to review the case details. Cron, Israels & Stark is located in Los Angeles, CA.