Under California Penal Code 135 PC, the willful destruction or concealment of evidence in a legal proceeding is a criminal offense.

Destroying or concealing evidence can come in many forms, from throwing away a shoplifted item after learning that the incident is being investigated, to destroying electronic files that are relevant to a criminal trial.

While 135 PC is a misdemeanor charge, it can result in fines and jail time. If you or someone close to you has been charged with destroying or concealing evidence, it is crucial that you seek the advice of a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Willful destruction of evidence

Destroying evidence during a legal proceeding is a crime when it is done willfully and knowingly. Destroying evidence accidentally, destroying an object without any knowledge that it may be used as evidence in a legal proceeding, or spoilage of evidence are not sufficient to be convicted of violating Penal Code 135 PC. 

Legally, “willfully” destroying or concealing evidence means that it is done with a purpose or intention to commit the criminal act. “Knowingly” destroying or concealing evidence means that you knew that the object was going to be used as evidence in a legal proceeding and were aware that you were acting in the destruction or concealment of it. 

In order to be convicted of destroying or concealing evidence, the evidence must be involved in a legal proceeding. A legal proceeding could be a:

  • Criminal investigation
  • Trial, or
  • Inquiry

Penalties for destroying or concealing evidence

Under California Penal Code 135 PC, destroying or concealing evidence is a misdemeanor offense. Penalties for violating Penal Code 135 PC are:

  • up to 6 months in county jail, and
  • a fine of up to $1,000

In some cases, a judge may grant a defendant probation as a substitute for time served in county jail. 

Will I face negative immigration consequences for a 135 PC conviction?

Under U.S. immigration law, some types of criminal convictions can lead to deportation or a designation as “inadmissible” for non-citizens. Destroying or concealing evidence is not one of those types of convictions and should not have any negative impact on a person’s immigration status.

Will a 135 PC conviction affect my gun rights?

While some California misdemeanors can result in a loss of gun rights or a 10-year firearm ban, a 135 PC conviction will not affect a person’s gun rights.

Is it possible to get my 135 PC conviction record expunged?

If you are convicted of destroying or concealing evidence, it may be possible to have your record expunged, provided you meet the required criteria. An expungement legally relieves you of any penalties or disabilities related to the conviction, including being required to disclose the conviction to potential employers, landlords, or licensing agencies. A person is entitled to expunge their 135 PC conviction if they:

  • Successfully complete and fulfill their probation, or
  • Complete their jail term, if sentenced to serve time in jail

There are three offenses related to destroying or concealing evidence. They are: 

Planting evidence – Penal Code 141 PC

Planting evidence is unique from concealing evidence in that it involves the moving or altering of evidence rather than hiding it. For someone to be guilty of planting evidence, both of the following must be true:

  • They willfully moved or altered evidence
  • The moving or altering of evidence resulted in another party being wrongfully charged with a crime

Offering false written evidence – Penal Code 132 PC

Under Penal Code 132 PC, it is illegal to present written evidence that is:

  • Forged
  • Fake, or
  • Illegally dated,

Or to illegally present any evidence in a legal proceeding.

Preparing false evidence – Penal Code 134 PC

Penal Code 134 PC makes it a crime to prepare any type of false evidence with the intent to present it in a legal proceeding. 

If you’ve been accused of destroying or concealing evidence, there are several strategies that you can use to fight your charges. Some of the most common defenses again 135 PC charges include:

  • Demonstrating that there is a lack of incriminating evidence against you
  • Proving that you did not willfully commit an act of concealing or destroying evidence. Destroying or concealing evidence unknowingly or accidentally is not considered a 135 PC violation
  • Showing that there was not an active legal proceeding when you destroyed or concealed evidence. For example, throwing away a document is not destroying evidence if the document was not going to be used in a legal proceeding

If you’ve been accused of destroying or concealing evidence, an experienced California criminal defense attorney can examine the facts of your case and determine the defense strategy that will find you the best possible outcome. Will over three decades of experience representing clients in the Los Angeles area, attorney Robert M. Helfend is the kind of legal expert that you need on your side. Call today at 805-273-5611 to learn how Mr. Helfend and his team can assist you.