In academic research papers, court trials, or even informal political debates in a Facebook comment section, the word “evidence” is often thrown around. Evidence forms the building blocks of the investigative process. More specifically, it is used to establish proof that a claim is true or factual. It is obvious, then, why people ask for evidence when someone says something controversial or questionable. However, evidence plays an even bigger role in the legal system. The court can draw inferences and reach conclusions to determine if a charge has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt -- and this highly depends on the evidences used and presented during the trial. In other words, the justice system cannot function properly if there are no evidence.
Considering how vital the role of evidence is in the court system, it makes sense why falsifying these would result in a criminal conviction. The state of California has a specific penal code for this, which is California Penal Code PC 132. Under this law, you are guilty of presenting false evidence if:
- The evidence used by the defendant was fraudulent or forged;
- The evidence in question was used during a court trial, proceeding, inquiry, or other forms of investigative process authorized by the law; and
- The defendant was consciously aware of the fact that the evidence was fraudulent or forged.
Keep in mind that false evidence does not equate to incorrect evidence. A false evidence would be something that was manipulated or fabricated to “appear” truthful. Whereas an incorrect evidence is something that is true in nature but is not used appropriately. For example, knowingly presenting a fake video to prove that you were elsewhere during the time of the murder is presenting false evidence, but it's not necessarily incorrect.
Meanwhile, an individual can only be convicted of this crime if you knowingly submitted false evidence to the court. The lack of criminal intent to deceive the court, jury, or officer who would receive the evidence is often enough to prove the innocence of the defendant.
Presenting false evidence can be in many forms. See the following scenarios below for a clearer picture of this law:
- You were sued for unlawful discharge of a firearm to an inhabited establishment. To counter the charge, you decided to borrow your friend's gun and present it to the court as your property. You then reason out that the bullets found in the crime scene do not match your gun.
- After learning that your co-worker runs a counterfeit shop, you pay him to forge your son's birth certificate which you will be presenting in your upcoming divorce trial.
- Coercing your lawyer to use a fake receipt to prove that you are paying for child support.
Presenting false evidence is much more specific than preparing false evidence. In fact, the latter has its own penal code which is California Penal Code PC 134. Under this law, the false evidence does not need to find its way to court in
order for the presenter to be prosecuted -- the act of planning itself can already be a crime. In other words, preparing false evidence takes place before the legal proceeding while presenting false evidence takes place during the legal proceeding.
Aside from this, you can also be convicted of the following:
- Destruction or concealment of evidence
Punishments for Presenting False Evidence
Anyone who willfully and knowingly submits false evidence to a court trial or legal investigation is guilty of a felony -- the most severe form of a criminal offense where the penalties are as follows:
- A state prison sentence of 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years; and/or
- A felony probation.
Take note that this is just the standard imposed by the law; if you commit one or more crimes, you obviously will be facing greater penalties.
Criminal Defenses for PC 132
After knowing that presenting false evidence is a felony, you might have realized by now that this is no easy charge to challenge. What people need is a compassionate yet knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. With their expertise, they will be able to discuss the following defenses that you may use for your case:
- You reasonably believed that the evidence was true;
- Upon creating the forged document, you were not informed that it would be used as evidence in a legal proceeding;
- The event with which the evidence was presented is not an investigative process authorized by the law; and
- You were threatened to use the evidence in the trial.
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