Evidence tampering ‘loophole’ bill clears House committee
Messing with evidence could come with more consequences soon.

Crime scene of a murder case. 3D illustration
Supporters argue evidence tampering should carry the same weight as perjury.

Hiding evidence after a murder or any other capital offense may soon carry stiffer penalties under a proposal OK’d Tuesday by a House panel. 

Those who tamper, hide or destroy physical evidence related to a criminal case currently face a third-degree felony. Under the proposal, however, a person would face a second-degree felony — a tougher penalty — if they tampered with evidence in a capital felony case.

Examples of capital offenses include first-degree murder, rape and even some drug trafficking offenses.

The House Justice Appropriation Subcommittee approved the measure (HB 287) with a 12-1 vote. Republican Rep. Sam Garrison of Fleming Island is the bill sponsor.

Speaking to the committee, Garrison noted the proposal would make the consequences for evidence tampering the same as the consequence for perjury.

A person convicted of perjury, he explained, commits a third-degree felony. A person convicted of perjury during a capital felony case, however, commits a second-degree felony.

“The bottom line is you want to make sure in our capital cases, above all else, that decisions are being made on truth,” Garrison told members.

Lawmakers advanced the bill with few questions and no debate. Democratic Rep. Michele Rayner of St. Petersburg — a lawyer — was the sole lawmaker to vote against the measure.

According to the staff analysis, legislative prognosticators suspect the bill will likely increase Florida’s prison population — a factor likely to draw arrows from proponents of criminal justice reform.

Garrison’s proposal will appear next before the House Judiciary Committee — its final committee stop.

The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Subcommittee OK’d the bill in December with a 13-0 vote. Five lawmakers did not vote.

The Senate Companion bill (SB 796), meanwhile, is sponsored by Republican Sen. Jennifer Bradley of Fleming Island. That measure has yet to appear before a committee.

If signed into law, the proposal would take effect Oct. 1.

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the Florida State Capitol. After a go with the U.S. Army, the Orlando-native attended the University of Central Florida and earned a degree in American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. He'd love to hear from you. You can reach Jason by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter at @byJasonDelgado.


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