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Is it illegal to destroy electronic evidence you own?

On Behalf of | May 16, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

Electronic evidence plays a big role in criminal prosecutions involving fraud, embezzlement, insider trading and more. From incriminating emails to financial records stored on computers, tablets and phones, electronic evidence can give law enforcement and prosecutors a ton of fodder for an investigation. 

If you have electronics with evidence on them that belong to you, it seems like you should have the right to destroy them – but you do not. Attempting to do so can actually lead to bigger legal problems and serious repercussions for your case.

Obstruction of justice is another crime

The destruction of electronic evidence is not taken lightly by law enforcement and the judiciary. If you destroy electronic evidence you can be convicted of obstruction of justice or tampering with evidence even if you aren’t convicted of any other crimes. That’s because the preservation of evidence is essential for ensuring a fair and transparent legal process. 

In addition, the fact that you destroyed evidence has probative value in court. A prosecutor could easily point to your actions as proof that you had “guilty knowledge” and knew that the evidence you destroyed would convict you. That leaves the judge or jury free to draw the worst possible conclusions. 

Finally, your efforts may be for nothing. It’s very difficult to totally destroy electronic evidence since almost everything leaves a trail that can be forensically traced. 

Ultimately, if you believe that you have electronic evidence in your possession that could be used against you in court, you should consider obtaining experienced legal guidance right away. It’s better to address problems with your case in a straightforward manner, rather than attempt to subvert the legal process.