According to Florida Statute 918.13, Tampering with or fabricating physical evidence, a person commits a crime when they are aware that a criminal investigation, a criminal proceeding, or a criminal trial is being conducted by a law enforcement agency, duly constituted prosecuting authority, legislative committee, or grand jury in the state of Florida is pending, ongoing, or is about to be launched, engages in altering, concealing, destroying, or removing any document, record, or anything with the intention to undermine a proceeding or criminal investigation; or
- Making, presenting, or using a document, record, or anything knowing that it is fake..
An individual who commits any of the aforementioned and is convicted of "Florida State Statute 918.13 - Tampering With or Fabricating Physical Evidence" is guilty of a third-degree felony. Punishments for a felony in the third-degree in the state of Florida include:
- A maximum prison sentence of up to five years in prison; Florida has no minimum prison sentence for third-degree felony convictions.
- A maximum fine of up to $5,000.
A defendant court petition and work with prosecuting attorneys to receive a punishment of up to five years' probation. Having a qualified attorney and a clean criminal history can help argue for a non-prison penalty.
Florida Conspiracy to Tamper with Evidence Charges and the Recent Three Polk County Sheriff's Deputies Accused Thereof
ORLANDO, FL - According to an arrest report the OrlandoSentinel.com, three Polk County Sheriff's deputies were arrested after findings in an evidence tampering investigation. The three former Polk County Sheriff's deputies officially turned in their resignations after they were arrested on criminal charges of evidence tampering. According to Sheriff Grady Judd's media statement in Winter Haven on Monday morning, the deputies who resigned were named.
The criminal investigation was initiated following an incident on December 21, 2020, when an individual was arrested in Winter Haven, Florida, on drug charges of illegal possession with intent to sell.
One of the Polk County Sheriff's deputies who did the original search discovered money and drugs on the suspect. The deputy placed thirteen items found on the suspect into a property and evidence bag at a Polk County Sheriff's Office substation on December 23. In the deputy's report, the deputy reported the probable cause for the suspect's arrest, but the deputy failed to list the money seized as evidence, and the deputy did not enter the suspect's property at the county jail.
The defendant contacted the jail on March 15 to inquire about her missing cash and cellphone. That is when criminal investigators found that the deputy entered and signed a fraudulent supplemental report on March 16 that added the missing cash as evidence that one of the former deputies notarized.
During the criminal investigation, the law enforcement officer handling the Property and Evidence room stated to law enforcement officials that the deputy phoned her at the substation and then asked her to phone him back on his personal mobile phone. The deputy admitted to the Property and Evidence officer that all evidence in the case was accounted for except the missing cash.
The deputy stated then asked the Property and Evidence officer if he could do something to replace the missing money.
The Property and Evidence officer then informed her supervisor about the call, and the Property and Evidence officer's supervisor then called the arresting deputy's sergeant. When the arresting deputy's sergeant asks his deputy about the money and his phone call to the Property and Evidence officer, the deputy stated that he was going to "make it right."
The deputy's sergeant then informed the deputy not to take any further action, and then the department launched an internal and criminal investigation.
Criminal investigators then spoke with another deputy who confirmed the details concerning the original arrest, but he gave a conflicting story about the missing money and where the missing money went after it was seized during the suspect's arrest. The deputy stated that he and the arresting deputy were going to replace the suspect's money with their own personal funds. The deputy stated that he sent the arresting deputy $500 on CashApp, and he expected the remaining money to be submitted to Property and Evidence by the arresting deputy submit. When the plan did not work, the deputy asked for his money back from the arresting deputy via CashApp.
When investigators questioned the third Sheriff's deputy, he confirmed the stories asserted by both deputies. The third deputy stated that he did not take or touch the suspect's money. However, he failed to report the arresting deputy, who called him and explained that the money was missing. The third deputy stated that he told the arresting deputy to report the incident to their superiors. The arresting officers declined, stating that he did not want to get into trouble. Also, the investigators stated that the third deputy was aware of the plan for the two deputies to return the suspect's cash and failed to try to stop the deputies or notify their superiors. According to the third deputy, the arresting deputy knew his password and probably used his password access fraudulently to sign in the fake supplemental report and without his knowledge.
Law enforcement authorities investigating the case have charged all three former deputies with "conspiracy to tamper with evidence."
The two Polk County Sheriff's deputies who are accused of keeping the suspect's cash are also receiving criminal charges of official misconduct trying to falsify records, and evidence tampering.
The arresting deputy was also criminally charged with publishing a forged record and forgery of another deputy's signature.
All three former Polk County Sheriff's deputies submitted their resignations following the arrest.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd stated that he was angry that the three former Polk County Sheriff's deputies violated the law and betrayed the public's trust.