- Spoliation of evidence
Criminal law Part of the common law series Element (criminal law) Actus reus · Mens rea
Causation · Concurrence
Scope of criminal liability Complicity · Corporate · Vicarious Inchoate offenses Attempt · Conspiracy · Solicitation Offence against the person Crimes against property Arson · Blackmail · Burglary
Embezzlement · Extortion
False pretenses · Larceny
Possessing stolen property
Robbery · Theft
Crimes against justice Compounding · Misprision
Obstruction · Perjury
Malfeasance in office
Perverting the course of justice
Defenses to liability Defense of self
Defence of property
Consent · Diminished responsibility
Duress · Entrapment
Ignorantia juris non excusat
Infancy · Insanity
Justification · Mistake (of law)
Necessity · Loss of Control (Provocation)
Other common law areas Contracts · Evidence · Property
Torts · Wills, trusts and estates
Portals Criminal justice · Law
In law, spoliation of evidence is the intentional or negligent withholding, hiding, altering, or destroying of evidence relevant to a legal proceeding. Spoliation has two possible consequences: in jurisdictions where the (intentional) act is criminal by statute, it may result in fines and incarceration for the parties who engaged in the spoliation; in jurisdictions where relevant case law precedent has been established, proceedings possibly altered by spoliation may be interpreted under a spoliation inference.
The spoliation inference is a negative evidentiary inference that a finder of fact can draw from a party's destruction of a document or thing that is relevant to an ongoing or reasonably foreseeable civil or criminal proceeding: the finder of fact can review all evidence uncovered in as strong a light as possible against the spoliator and in favor of the opposing party.
The theory of the spoliation inference is that when a party destroys evidence, it may be reasonable to infer that the party had "consciousness of guilt" or other motivation to avoid the evidence. Therefore, the factfinder may conclude that the evidence would have been unfavorable to the spoliator. Some jurisdictions have recognized a spoliation tort action, which allows the victim of destruction of evidence to file a separate tort action against a spoliator.
Spoliation is often an issue in the context where a person claims he has been injured by a defective product which he then discarded or lost. In that circumstance, the defendant manufacturer or distributor may move to dismiss the case on the basis of spoliation (instead of just having to rely on the plaintiff's usual burden of proof, the argument being that any testimony of plaintiff's witnesses would not overcome the spoliation inference born of the lost evidentiary value of the missing product itself).
- ^ Black's Law Dictionary (8th ed. 2004). For an overview of spoliation, see generally Michael Zuckerman, Yes, I Destroyed the Evidence -- Sue Me?, Journal of Computer and Information Law
- ^ http://library.findlaw.com/1996/Nov/1/231209.html
- ^ http://www.whitelawtwining.com/pdfs/Spoliation_and_Preserving_Evid.pdf
- ^ http://www.law.com/jsp/legaltechnology/pubArticleLT.jsp?id=1182935157632
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