Tampering with evidence

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Spoliation of evidence)

Tampering with evidence, or evidence tampering, is an act in which a person alters, conceals, falsifies, or destroys evidence with the intent to interfere with an investigation (usually) by a law-enforcement, governmental, or regulatory authority.[1] It is a criminal offense in many jurisdictions.[2]

Tampering with evidence is closely related to the legal issue of spoliation of evidence, which is usually the civil law or due process version of the same concept (but may itself be a crime). Tampering with evidence is also closely related to obstruction of justice and perverting the course of justice, and these two kinds of crimes are often charged together. The goal of tampering with evidence is usually to cover up a crime or with intent to injure the accused person.[3][4]


Spoliation of evidence is the intentional, reckless, or negligent withholding, hiding, altering, fabricating, or destroying of evidence relevant to a legal proceeding.[5] Historically, it has also sometimes been referred to as spoilage of evidence.[6]

The spoliation inference is a negative evidentiary inference that a trier of fact can draw from a party's destruction of evidence that is relevant to an ongoing or reasonably foreseeable civil or criminal proceeding: the finder of fact can review all evidence uncovered in as strong a light as possible against the spoliator and in favor of the opposing party.

However, in U.S. federal courts, updates to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in 2015 have resulted in significant decline in spoliation sanctions.[7]


The theory of the spoliation inference is that when a party destroys evidence, it may be reasonable to infer that the party had "consciousness of guilt" or other motivation to avoid the evidence. Therefore, the factfinder may conclude that the evidence would have been unfavorable to the spoliator. Some jurisdictions have recognized a spoliation tort action, which allows the victim of destruction of evidence to file a separate tort action against a spoliator.[8]

By law enforcement[edit]

When police confiscate[2] or destroy a citizen's photographs or recordings of officers' misconduct, the police's act of destroying the evidence may be prosecuted as an act of evidence tampering, if the recordings being destroyed are potential evidence in a criminal or regulatory investigation of the officers themselves.[9]

Examples of evidence spoliation[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sanchirico, Chris W. (February 2004). "Evidence Tampering". Duke Law Journal. 53 (4): 1215. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Destruction of document or electronic record to prevent its production as evidence". Singapore Statutes. 2 November 2020. Retrieved 2 November 2020.
  3. ^ "False charge of offence made with intent to injure". Singapore Statutes. 2 November 2020. Archived from the original on 24 June 2020. Retrieved 2 November 2020.
  4. ^ "Wrongful Convictions in Singapore: A General Survey of Risk Factors". Archived from the original on 12 June 2020. Retrieved 2 November 2020.
  5. ^ Black's Law Dictionary (8th ed. 2004). For an overview of spoliation, see generally Michael Zuckerman, Yes, I Destroyed the Evidence -- Sue Me?, Journal of Computer and Information Law
  6. ^ Katz, Scott S.; Muscaro, Anne Marie (1993). "Spoilage of Evidence - Crimes, Sanctions, Inferences and Torts". Tort & Insurance Law Journal. 29 (1): 51–76 – via JSTOR.
  7. ^ Young, Will (January 27, 2020). "How Corporate Lawyers Made It Harder to Punish Companies That Destroy Electronic Evidence". ProPublica. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  8. ^ "Evidence Spoliation: A Growing New Tort - FindLaw". Library.findlaw.com. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  9. ^ "Know Your Rights: Protesters and Photographers". ACLU. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  10. ^ "Inquiry into Met Police file shredding claims". BBC News. 2017-02-09. Retrieved 2023-11-28.
  11. ^ Siklos, Richard (2007-07-14). "Conrad Black Found Guilty in Fraud Trial". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2023-11-28.

Further reading[edit]

  • Fournet, Caroline (2019). "Nothing Must Remain: The (In)visibility of Atrocity Crimes and the Perpetrators' Strategies using the Corpses of their Victims". In Smeulers, Alette; Weerdesteijn, Maartje; Hola, Barbora (eds.). Perpetrators of International Crimes: Theories, Methods, and Evidence. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-882999-7.