Legal Dictionary


Tampering or Planting Evidence

Tampering or Planting Evidence, also referred to as Evidence Tampering, is the illegal act of changing, hiding, moving, planting, placing, or fabricating any record, document, or object with the intent to impair its validity or availability in a trial (criminal or civil), criminal investigation, or official proceeding. Evidence Tampering is a serious crime in most states, including California. Evidence Tampering includes a broad range of activities, from deleting a text or email to planting false evidence in order to implicate someone in a crime.

Example 1: If Tom burglarized his neighbor's home and then throws his ski mask and burglary tools in the lake, he can be charged with residential burglary. He is unlikely to be charged with destruction of evidence. On the other hand, if after the burglary Tom gives the ski mask and burglary tools to his roommate Jerry, who discards the mask and the tools in the lake, Jerry will likely be charged with destruction of evidence if he is caught.

Example 2: If a policeman shoots a suspect at a crime scene, knowing the suspect did not have a gun, and then plants a gun at the scene in order to raise and use the defense of self- defense, he/she can be charged with planting evidence.

California Law

Under California Penal Code section 141(a), a person engages in Evidence Tampering by doing any of the following willfully and intentionally:

  • Changes, modifies, places, or alters evidence;
  • Plants evidence;
  • Moves, conceals or hides evidence;
  • Makes or fabricates the evidence.

In order to be convicted of this crime in California, the prosecutor must also prove that at the time the evidence was tampered with that he or she intended that the faked, altered, or planted evidence be considered as genuine and authentic, or it could be used to implicate someone in a crime.

Example: Ken & Mary are married and living together. Mary strongly suspects her husband Ken is having an affair with their cleaning lady (Judy). Mary then plants some drugs in Judy's car in the hopes of having Judy arrested and thrown in jail. Mary could be charged with planting or tampering with evidence because she put the drugs in Judy's car with the intention of having her charged with a crime.

What is Evidence

Evidence includes any physical object, thing or material relevant to an actual or pending criminal or civil trial, investigation, or other legal proceeding. Common examples of evidence include documents, computers, photographs, emails, texts, automobiles, hard drives, flash drives, and guns, or other weapons.

The following are common examples of Evidence Tampering:

  • Deleting emails or texts
  • Falsifying business records
  • Placing or planting stolen merchandise in a neighbor's home
  • Discarding a murder weapon into a lake
  • Fabricating phony receipts for stolen merchandise
  • Planting a former roommate's blood next to a broken window to make it look like a residential burglary and to implicate the roommate in a crime.


Typically a charge of Evidence Tampering in California is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in county jail. A conviction of Evidence Tampering involving law enforcement officers is a felony punishable by two to five years in state prison.

If you are being investigated or charged with Tampering or Planting evidence immediately consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Sometimes people may attempt to modify evidence in order to protect themselves or a loved one from being charged with a crime. While this may appear to be innocent behavior, it can lead to serious criminal charges. Consult with an attorney before interviewing with law enforcement. Talking to law enforcement may seem like a good idea at the time but any statement given to law enforcement could be used against you in a criminal prosecution. Retaining a criminal defense attorney at the beginning of your criminal case is critical to a favorable outcome of your case.