Ohio Supreme Court: Hiding drugs is not always evidence tampering

The Supreme Court of Ohio recently vacated a guilty verdict in an evidence tampering case, which could have implications on similar cases in the future.

Before making arrests and going to trial, law enforcement officers in Ohio, and elsewhere, commonly collect evidence. These things are then used to prove a person's guilt. In order to avoid prosecution, some people may try to get rid of evidence. However, this may lead to evidence tampering charges. Recently, the Supreme Court of Ohio issued a ruling in an evidence tampering case, which could have a significant impact on future cases.

What is evidence tampering?

Under Ohio state law, once people know that an investigation or proceeding is in process, or is about to begin, they cannot take steps to get rid of evidence. This includes altering, concealing, removing or destroying records, documents or other things that may be used as evidence. For example, a law enforcement vehicle pulls a vehicle over. Before stopping, a passenger in the car throws a bag containing marijuana out of the window. The passenger could be charged with evidence tampering.

Additionally, the law prohibits people from making or presenting false evidence in order to mislead public officials who are engaged in proceedings or investigations . This is also the case if they provide falsified records, documents or other things in an effort to corrupt the outcome of an investigation. In the state of Ohio, evidence tampering is a third-degree felony offense.

Supreme Court voids evidence tampering ruling

According to The News-Herald, the Supreme Court of Ohio recently reversed a verdict, which found a woman in Scioto County guilty of evidence tampering. The woman allegedly used a condom to conceal heroin and cocaine in her body. Law enforcement officers found out about the drugs during a traffic stop.

The woman's evidence tampering conviction was thrown out on the grounds that she wasn't aware there was an investigation underway when she hid the drugs. Rather, she hid them because she knew it was illegal to have the illicit substances in her possession. The court ruled that knowing the drugs were illegal was not proof enough of evidence tampering.

Implications for future cases

This ruling could have a significant impact on future evidence tampering cases. The ruling sets a precedence that people must know, or should know, that they are being investigated in order to be charged with evidence tampering. Thus, the authorities in Ohio may not be able to freely use the law in similar drug concealment cases in the future.

Seeking legal guidance

The penalties people may face if convicted of drug charges in Ohio, and other states, may be serious enough on their own. The consequences may be enhanced, however, if they face additional, related charges too. Therefore, those who have been charged with drug-related offenses may benefit from obtaining legal representation. An attorney may help them to establish a criminal defense, which may include questioning whether the charges against them are appropriate.