California Penal Code 135 makes it is illegal to willfully and knowingly destroy or conceal any form of evidence that is to be used in a trial or government investigation.
Does Destroying Evidence Apply to Civil and Criminal Cases?
Destroying evidence is prohibited in both civil and criminal cases, including contract dispute litigation or divorce. As noted above this charge applies to evidence which is used in trial or government investigation.
What Must Be Proved To Be Convicted of California Penal Code 135 PC?
In order for a defendant to be convicted of Penal Code 135 PC destroying or concealing evidence the prosecutor must be able to prove the following elements:
- Defendant willfully and knowingly destroyed or concealed any type of evidence
- Defendant knew or should have known that he destroyed or concealed evidence which is the subject of a legal proceeding, such as:
- Criminal trial
- Parole hearing
- Civil trial
- Criminal investigation
- Police investigation
You Can’t Be Convicted Under Penal Code 135 PC If:
In case the defendant destroyed the evidence when no legal investigation or trial was in process, and later it turned out that the destroyed thing could be used as an evidence in an investigation process that began later he can’t be convicted under Penal Code 135 PC.
Common Examples of Evidence that is Intentionally Destroyed in Penal Code 135 PC Cases
A person can be convicted for Penal Code 135 PC intentionally destroying almost any type of evidence such as
- Drug(s) or drug paraphernalia
- Document(s), record(s), or Instrument in writing
- Video recording(s) or digital image(s)
Can Defendant Be Convicted For Penal Code 135 PC If There Was only an Attempt to Destroy or Conceal?
It is important to mention that destroying or concealing evidence is not like other California crimes where a person can be charged for attempting to commit a crime. In order to be convicted under California Penal Code Section 135, defendant must have been successful at destroying or concealing the evidence. An unsuccessful attempt to destroy or conceal evidence in California will not lead to a conviction.
Defenses to Penal Code 135 Destroying or Concealing Evidence
There are several common legal defenses for CA Penal Code 135 which including some of the following:
- Person didn’t know that the evidence was in a criminal investigation or prosecution
In case defendant wasn’t aware that there was an active criminal investigation when he destroyed or concealed the item of the question, he cannot be convicted of this crime.
- Person didn’t intentionally destroy or conceal the evidence
In case the evidence was destroyed or concealed accidently and the defendant didn’t act consciously he should not be convicted of this crime.
- Evidence was not actually destroyed nor concealed
In case the evidence survived destruction or it was possible to restore it, then the defendant cannot be convicted of concealing or destroying evidence.
Penalties for California Penal Code 135 PC
Penalties for Penal Code 135 destroying or concealing evidence is a misdemeanor in California Law. The penalties are the following:
- Up to six months in county jail and/or,
- A fine of up $1,000
The penalties can be leveled in conjunction with penalties for any other crime defendant is accused of. Additionally defendant usually faces to other penalties, such as a 3 year probation period, community service, restitution, civil lawsuits, negative professional licensing consequences, immigration consequences and more.
California Penal Code 135 PC Defense Lawyer
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