Evidence Tampering by Peace Officers – Penal Code Section 141
Penal Code Sections 141(a) and 141(b) punish evidence tampering by peace officers.
General Elements of an Evidence Tampering Case:
(1) The defendant peace officer willfully and intentionally (moved or planted or placed or made or hid or moved) a physical item of evidence / digital image or video recording;
(2) The defendant peace officer knew he was (moving or planting or placing or making or hiding) the physical item of evidence / digital image / or video recording;
(3) When the defendant peace officer (moved or planted or placed or made or hid or moved) the item of physical evidence / digital image / or video recording, he intendd that his action would result in someone being charged with a crime or that his actions would result in the physical item of evidence / digital image / or video recording being wrongfully produced as genuine or true in a court proceeding.
(4) When the defendant acted, he was a peace officer.
A person acts “willfully” when he or she does the act willingly or on purpose.
A peace officer is a sworn member of any agency that employes peace officers as authorized by Penal Code Section 830. Pursuant to Penal Code Section 830.1, peace officers inlude:
- Any sheriff, undersheriff or deputy sheriff;
- Any chief of police or police officer;
- Any marshal or deputy marshal of a superior court;
- Any port warden or port police officer;
- Any district attorney inspector or investigator;
- Attorney general and special agents and investigators of the Department of Justice;
- Assistant chiefs, deputy chiefs, directors and division directors of the Attorney General.
Penal Code Section 141(a) is punishable as a misdemeanor offense. The crime carries punishment up to 180 days in the county jail.
Penal Code Section 141(b) sets forth felony punishment and a term of 2, 3 or 5 years in the California Department of Corrections. The crime is not a “wobbler,” in that the court cannot reduce the charge to a misdemeanor. The sentencing judge has the option of granting a term of felony probation, however, with punishment of up to 1 year in the county jail.
You should contact an attorney immediately if you are a peace officer and you find yourself under suspicion for commiting a Section 141 crime. Ventura County prosecutors typically give law enforcement the benefit of the doubt. However, like other prosecutorial agencies, once the Office of the District Attorney believes that a 141 violation has occurred you can expect prosecutors to seek harsh punishment for the offender.