When Is Destroying Evidence a Crime in Washington?

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Jan 29

Lewis & Laws

When Is Destroying Evidence a Crime in Washington?

by Lewis & Laws

Perhaps you fixed your car after a hit-and-run accident? Maybe you deleted social media posts or emails after being investigated for a crime? If you knowingly destroyed or concealed evidence that could be useful in an investigation, you could be charged with a crime. Facing criminal charges for destroying evidence can be overwhelming. The law in Washington treats the destruction of evidence seriously, and you must understand what this means for you and your future.

When Does Evidence Destruction Become a Crime?

RCW 9A.72.150 is the Washington law that outlines the crime of destruction of evidence. In Washington, destroying evidence becomes a criminal act under certain circumstances. This typically involves willfully destroying, altering, concealing, or removing evidence with the intent to impair its availability or integrity in a pending or potential future legal proceeding. This can include physical evidence from a car accident, such as damaged vehicles, or digital evidence, like text messages or emails.

In essence, if someone knowingly destroys evidence that could be significant in a legal case, they could be charged with a crime.

Is Deleting Emails and Digital Evidence a Crime?

Depending on the intent and legal context, Destroying digital evidence can be considered a crime. Deleting digital data as part of routine data management, such as clearing old emails or files following a company's data retention policy, is generally not considered a crime. However, if someone intentionally destroys digital evidence intending to obstruct an ongoing investigation or legal proceeding, it can be considered a crime. This might include deleting emails, wiping hard drives, or taking other actions to hide incriminating information. In legal cases, especially litigation or investigations, deleting emails might be seen as spoliation of evidence if done to hide or destroy relevant information. This can lead to legal consequences, including sanctions, adverse inferences, or even obstruction of justice charges.

The Penalties: What You Risk by Destroying Evidence

The consequences of destroying evidence in Washington can be severe and are gross misdemeanors. You can face hefty fines and jail time if convicted of destroying evidence. In addition, the impact of a conviction for destroying evidence extends far beyond the immediate legal penalties. It can cast a long shadow over various aspects of your life, including:

- Employment Challenges: A criminal record can hinder your job prospects, as many employers are wary of hiring individuals with a history of legal transgressions.

- Social Stigma: Being convicted of a crime like destroying evidence can lead to social ostracization, impacting personal and professional relationships.

- Financial Strain: Legal fees, fines, and the potential loss of employment can lead to significant financial stress.

How Can a Washington Criminal Defense Lawyer Help?

If you’re charged with destroying evidence, you need an experienced Washington criminal defense attorney on your side. Your attorney will thoroughly investigate the case, including the circumstances surrounding the alleged destruction of evidence. They will review all available evidence, including any that might support your defense.

Based on their analysis, your criminal defense lawyer will develop a strong defense strategy tailored to your case. This could involve challenging the evidence presented by the prosecution, questioning the chain of custody, or presenting alternative explanations for the actions in question.

Depending on your case, your attorney may negotiate with the prosecution for reduced charges or a plea agreement. They will work to protect your interests and minimize potential penalties.

Contact Our Seattle Criminal Defense Attorneys Today

If you’ve been charged with a crime, such as destroying evidence, you need an aggressive legal team to fight for your rights. At Lewis & Laws, our Seattle criminal defense attorneys can help you fight back and protect your future and reputation. 

Lewis & Laws offers aggressive legal assistance in Seattle, Bellevue, Everett, and Washington State. Contact us today to explore your legal options. Protect your future and call us today

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