NRS 199.220: Destroying Evidence—Penalties and Examples
NRS 199.120, commonly known as “Destroying Evidence”, is a Nevada statute that makes it illegal to destroy evidence in order to prevent its use in an investigation or court proceeding. This law applies to both civil and criminal cases, with the penalties for breaking this law varying depending on the severity of the offense. In general, someone convicted of destroying evidence can face jail time and/or fines.
It is important for anyone accused or suspected of violating NRS 199.120 to understand their legal rights and options so they can make informed decisions about how best to handle their case. In this article, we will discuss what constitutes destroying evidence under NRS 199.120, potential penalties if found guilty of such offenses, examples of when one might be accused of destroying evidence, how prosecutors must prove that someone destroyed or attempted to destroy evidence, possible defenses against accusations of wrongdoing related to NRS 199.120 charges and more information about how these types crimes are handled in Nevada courts today.
If you’ve been accused of destroying evidence, it is essential that you contact a knowledgeable Nevada criminal defense lawyer like The Defenders as soon as possible. An experienced attorney can explain your legal rights and options and help you fight for the best outcome in your case. With the right representation, you may be able to get your charges reduced or dismissed entirely. Call us today for a free case evaluation.
What Does NRS 199.120 Say
NRS 199.120 states that anyone who willfully destroys or alters any document, record or thing relevant to an investigation, trial, or other proceedings with the intention of preventing its use in such proceedings shall be guilty of gross misdemanor.
NRS 199.120 reads:
Every person who, with intent to conceal the commission of any felony, or to protect or conceal the identity of any person committing the same, or with intent to delay or hinder the administration of the law or to prevent the production thereof at any time, in any court or before any officer, tribunal, judge or magistrate, shall willfully destroy, alter, erase, obliterate or conceal any book, paper, record, writing, instrument or thing shall be guilty of a gross misdemeanor.
While the statute is titled “destroying evidence,” the wording used is very broad and includes any act that is intended to hinder or disrupt an investigation or court proceeding, even if the person did not destroy physical evidence.
The section “shall willfully destroy, alter, erase, obliterate or conceal any book, paper, record, writing, instrument or thing” allows for this interpretation.
Any of these actions can be considered a violation of NRS 199.120 and result in criminal charges if done with the intent to conceal or prevent evidence from being used against someone.
In addition, the word “evidence” has a broad definition. The last part of the section “shall willfully destroy, alter, erase, obliterate or conceal any book, paper, record, writing, instrument or thing” makes the word evidence anything—whether that’s physical or digital.
Altogether, this NRS covers a wide range of activities, including shredding documents, deleting computer files, and erasing text messages, photos, or videos that could be relevant to a case.
Penalties for Destroying Evidence and Violating NRS 199.120
Anyone convicted of violating NRS 199.120 commits a gross misdemeanor offense in Nevada. This means the maximum penalty someone can face if convicted of destroying evidence is 364 days in jail and/or fines up to $2,000.
NRS 199.120 is a serious offense and could have serious consequences if convicted. Courts consider a variety of factors when deciding what kind of penalties to impose on someone who has been found guilty of violating this law, including the severity of the crime, the amount of evidence destroyed, and any prior criminal record (if applicable).
For example, if someone is found guilty of destroying evidence in a murder trial, they could be sentenced to much harsher penalties than someone convicted of destroying evidence in a theft case.
Examples of Destroying Evidence
It is important to note that simply deleting or “destroying” evidence does not necessarily mean that someone has violated NRS 199.120. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the destruction was done with intent to prevent its use in an investigation or court proceeding.
Some examples of things that could be considered destroying evidence under NRS 199.120 include:
- Deleting emails or other files to prevent them from being used as evidence in a criminal trial
- Shredding documents related to an investigation
- Erasing text messages, photos, or videos from a cell phone in order to prevent them from being used as evidence
- Hiding physical evidence so that it cannot be found by law enforcement.
For example, a recent investigation found a man cut up his shoes which contained blood stains from a murder charge in an effort to destroy evidence.
If you watch enough crime shows, you’d also find people sneaking into the evidence room in order to hide or destroy evidence that could be used against them. That is a clear violation of NRS 199.120, and would result in criminal charges if the prosecution can prove intent to conceal or prevent its use.
How to Prove That Someone Destroyed Evidence
In order to prove that someone violated NRS 199.120, the prosecution must demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant willfully destroyed, altered, erased, obliterated or concealed any book, paper, record, writing instrument or thing with intent to prevent its use in an investigation or court proceeding.
The prosecution will typically try to establish the defendant’s motive for destroying the evidence by presenting evidence of other incriminating circumstances, such as surveillance footage or witness statements. Additionally, circumstantial evidence can be used to support the prosecution’s case.
For example, if a defendant suddenly changes their story after a certain piece of evidence is destroyed, it could indicate they were attempting to hide something.
Defenses Against Accusations of Destroying Evidence
There are a few defenses that can be used against accusations of destroying evidence.
One of the most common is that the defendant did not have any intent or knowledge to destroy evidence in order to prevent its use in an investigation or court proceeding. This defense must be backed up with strong evidence, such as witness testimony or surveillance footage. Additionally, the defendant may argue that the evidence was already destroyed prior to their involvement.
The defendant can also argue that the evidence was not relevant to the case. Proving this may require the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney who can argue that the evidence was not material to the case and did not have a direct bearing on guilt or innocence.
In some cases, it might also be possible for the defendant to argue entrapment. This defense requires evidence that law enforcement officials induced or coerced them into destroying evidence.
Finally, it might be possible for the defendant to claim that their rights were violated during the investigation or court proceedings. This defense requires a thorough review of all documents related to the case in order to determine if any constitutional violations occurred like an illegal search and seizure by the police.
Can the Criminal Record Be Sealed?
If a case involving destroying evidence results in a conviction, the defendant can petition to seal their record two years after it has been closed.
However, if the outcome of this case is dismissal, then there isn’t any waiting period; they are free to request for immediate sealing of their records.
Once your criminal record is sealed, past convictions and arrests will no longer be displayed on background checks. You can even legally declare under oath or in job interviews that you don’t have any prior arrest/convictions. (Though there may be certain exceptions.)
What to Do if You Are Accused or Suspected of Destroying Evidence
If you are accused or suspected of destroying evidence, the first thing to do is contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. An attorney can help protect your rights during the investigation and court proceedings and advise you on what to do if you are charged with violating NRS 199.120.
The Defenders are experienced criminal defense attorneys who understand how to handle cases involving accusations of destroying evidence as well as other criminal charges. We are dedicated to helping our clients protect their rights and receive the best outcome possible. Contact us today for a free consultation.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is NRS 199.120?
NRS 199.120 is the Nevada statute that prohibits a person from willfully destroying, altering, erasing, obliterating or concealing any book, paper, record, writing instrument or thing with intent to prevent its use in an investigation or court proceeding.
What are some examples of destroying evidence?
Examples of destroying evidence include hiding documents related to a case in order to prevent them from being used as evidence, wiping a computer clean so that it cannot be searched for incriminating information, and disposing of material objects that could potentially be used against the defendant in court.
What happens if you’re convicted of violating NRS 199.120?
If you are convicted of violating NRS 199.120, you may face up to 364 days in prison and/or a fine of up to $2,000. Additionally, the court may impose additional penalties depending on the circumstances.
What are some defenses against accusations of destroying evidence?
Some potential defenses against accusations of destroying evidence include lack of intent or knowledge, arguing that the evidence was already destroyed prior to your involvement, claiming that the evidence was not relevant to the case, entrapment, and asserting constitutional violations. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you develop an effective defense strategy for your case.
Do I need an attorney if I’m accused of violating NRS 199.120?
If you are accused or suspected of destroying evidence, it is highly recommended that you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. An attorney can help protect your rights during the investigation and court proceedings and advise you on what to do if you are charged with violating NRS 199.120.
I accidentally deleted an important email, does this count as destroying evidence?
Accidentally deleting an important email would not typically be considered a violation of NRS 199.120, as long as there was no intent to prevent its use in an investigation or court proceeding. However, if the deletion occurred in order to conceal information pertinent to an investigation or court proceeding, then it could be considered a violation of NRS 199.120. It is important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can evaluate your case and advise you on the best course of action.