Laws About Hiding Evidence

By Jenny E
Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images

Hiding evidence is a criminal offense under the provisions of chapter 73 of the United States Code, titled "Obstruction of Justice." Obstruction of justice covers a wide range of actions or inactions, including hiding evidence. State laws or codes may have slight variations in their interpretation and execution of this law, however, the basic tenets remain the same.

Overview

Under the provisions of the United States Code, a person is guilty of the crime of obstruction of justice when he willfully attempts to interfere with the judicial system, law enforcement officers or the proper administration of the courts. Some examples of obstruction of justice include interfering with an arrest, engaging in unlawful conversations with witnesses and hiding evidence. An example of hiding evidence is any attempt by a prosecutor in a criminal case to try to withhold or hide unfavorable evidence that he is mandated to provide to the defense under the provisions of the law.

Objective

The main objective of the laws relating to obstruction of justice is to maintain and uphold the integrity of congressional and agency hearings, as well as federal judicial proceedings. In order to bring an action of hiding evidence, the state or federal government has to prove that there was indeed a pending or ongoing federal, state, judicial or administrative proceeding. Another burden of proof is to show that the accused was aware of such a proceeding and did indeed try to conceal evidence, as such obstructing or attempting to obstruct justice.

Penalties

Under the provisions of the United States code, any act of obstruction of justice, including hiding evidence, falls under the classification of a felony. This is a criminal offense punishable by a maximum sentence of 20 years in jail. State laws on obstruction of justice cases may be applied only if the case does not involve a federal official or federal court proceeding. For example, under Section 76-8-306 (c) of the Utah Code, hiding or concealing evidence is also considered obstruction of justice. It is divided into categories ranging from class A misdemeanor to third-degree felony depending on mitigating circumstances including whether the offender is a juvenile.

Misprision of a Felony

Misprision of a felony is another criminal offense that deals with the concealment of evidence. Misprision of a felony involves the failure to report a felony that someone knows about. This law is provided for under Title 18, Section 4 of the United States Code. This law applies to the public at large and is not contingent on any specific judicial or administrative procedure. For instance, anyone who knows that someone has committed a felony and fails to report it to a federal judge may be guilty of the offense of misprision of a felony.