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California Penal Code Section 135 PC: Destroying Or Concealing Evidence

Douglas Parker

Have you ever seen those crime shows where someone frantically shreds a document or smashes a hard drive to bits? While it might make for dramatic television, destroying evidence in real life is a serious crime. In California, the specific statute that addresses this matter is Penal Code Section 135 PC – the act of tampering with evidence in order to impede a lawful proceeding. Now, let’s examine the essence of this legislation and the key information you should be aware of.

When is destroying evidence a crime?

If you know that any type of evidence, be it your phone or documents, is relevant to an investigation and you intentionally destroy it to prevent it from being used, then you’ve committed a crime. The key here is that you knew the evidence was important and acted deliberately to get rid of it.

What is the Penal Code 135 in California?

PC 135 is legislation that forbids individuals from intentionally obliterating or hiding evidence associated with a prospective trial, investigation, or inquiry. This law [1] encompasses a wide array of evidence, including tangible items (such as mobile devices), written records (like testimonies from witnesses), or even electronic data [2] (like posts on social media platforms). The purpose of the law is to guarantee a just legal procedure in which all parties have the opportunity to obtain and review the existing evidence.

Key Elements of Penal Code 135

In order to secure a conviction [3] under California Penal Code 135, the prosecutor must provide evidence of the following:

  • Knowledge: You knew the evidence was relevant to a legal proceeding.
  • Willfulness: You deliberately destroyed or concealed the evidence.
  • Type of Evidence: The evidence could be anything – a document, recording, object, or even digital data.
  • Intent: You aimed to prevent the evidence from being used in a legal proceeding.

To illustrate, imagine that you observe a hit-and-run incident [4] and record the license plate of the fleeing automobile on your dashboard camera. If law enforcement authorities request the recording at a later time, and you purposefully erase it despite being aware of its significance as crucial evidence, you could potentially face charges for breaching Penal Code 135.

california penal code 135

What are the Legal Penalties and Consequences for 135 PC?

The violation of Penal Code 135 is regarded as a misdemeanor offense [5], and if found guilty, you may be subjected to:

  • A maximum sentence of six months in a local correctional facility like a county jail.
  • A penalty of a maximum of $1,000.

Nevertheless, the repercussions extend beyond mere sanctions, as tampering with evidence can significantly raise suspicions and undermine your defense if you are already confronted with charges associated with the ongoing inquiry. Depending on the circumstances, it is possible for supplementary fees to be incurred.

Defenses Against Charges Under Penal Code 135

If accused of violating California Penal Code 135, several defenses can be raised.

  • Lack of Knowledge: You didn’t know the evidence was relevant to a legal proceeding.
  • Accidental Destruction: You unintentionally caused the destruction of evidence.
  • Mistake of Fact: You mistakenly believed you had the right to destroy, erase, or conceal the evidence.
  • Duress: You were forced to destroy the evidence under threat of harm.

It’s important to remember that these defenses can be complex. If you’re facing charges under Penal Code 135, consulting with a qualified Los Angeles criminal defense attorney is crucial.

Can I Get a Conviction Expunged?

In the event of being found guilty under Penal Code 135, individuals may have the opportunity to have their conviction dismissed from their record upon successful completion of probation. This procedure is commonly referred to as expungement [6]. Nonetheless, there exist certain criteria and designated timeframes, therefore it is advisable to seek legal counsel in order to comprehend your qualification status.

Related Legal Offenses and Charges

Penal Code 135 is not the singular legal provision addressing evidence destruction or tampering. Here are several interconnected offenses:

  • Offering false written evidence – PC 132: This covers knowingly presenting false documents as evidence in a legal proceeding.
  • Preparing false evidence – PC 134: This involves fabricating evidence, like planting a weapon at a crime scene.
  • Planting evidence – PC 141: This refers to placing fake evidence to incriminate someone else.

Seeking Legal Help for Penal Code 135 Charges

Understanding California Penal Code 135 can present challenges, and it is not recommended to handle legal matters independently. Here’s why it is essential to seek assistance from a legal professional:

  • Understanding the Charges: A lawyer has the ability to elucidate the precise particulars of your case and the proof presented against you. Additionally, they can assist in identifying any possible defenses that can be raised.
  • Constructing Your Legal Protection: An experienced attorney will possess the knowledge to accumulate corroborating facts for your case and formulate a strong strategy for your defense.
  • Negotiating with the Prosecutor: In certain situations, your legal representative may have the opportunity to engage in negotiations with the prosecutor, potentially leading to a plea bargain that could result in decreased criminal charges or penalties.
  • Courtroom Representation: Legal representation in the courtroom is crucial if your case proceeds to trial. It is imperative to have a skilled attorney by your side who can proficiently present your case and advocate for a positive resolution. Contact us at Manshoory Law to get the best defense and help you may need for your case.

Remember, even if you think you have a weak case, consulting with an attorney is still your best bet. They can advise you of your options and help you make informed decisions throughout the legal process!


  1. Law section. (n.d.).§ionNum=135.
  2. Parker, D. (2024, March 7). What is Digital Evidence in Criminal Trials? | Manshoory Law. Manshoory Law Group, APC.

  3. Discovery-Compliance-System-Manual-2020.pdf. (2020). Revised – April 2020. Discovery Compliance System Manual.
  4. Manshoory, S. (2023, March 19). What you need to know about Hit-and-Run Accidents | Manshoory Law. Manshoory Law Group, APC.

  5. Parker, D. (2024, March 7). Infraction vs Misdemeanor: What’s The Difference? | Manshoory Law. Manshoory Law Group, APC.

  6. Manshoory, S. (2019, May 2). How to get your criminal record expunged in CA? | Manshoory Law. Manshoory Law Group, APC.