Law School Case Brief
Pannell v. State - 7 S.W.3d 222 (Tex. App. 1999)
A person commits the offense of tampering with evidence if, knowing an investigation is pending or in progress, he alters, destroys, or conceals anything with intent to impair its verity, legibility, or availability as evidence in the investigation. Tex. Penal. Code Ann. § 37.09(a)(1) (1994).
While being stopped for speeding, defendant Gregory Alan Pannell emptied the contents of a baggie out the car window. Upon approaching the vehicle, the officer smelled the odor of burning marijuana and Pannell admitted that the had thrown a joint away. He was convicted in Texas state court for tampering with evidence. Pannell appealed the conviction, contending that the evidence was legally insufficient to support his conviction.
Was the evidence sufficient to support Pannell's conviction?
Since the police officer was investigating only a speeding violation at the time Pannell threw the marijuana out his car window, there was no evidence that an investigation in which the marijuana would serve as evidence was pending or in progress. The court construed Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 37.09(a)(1) to require that defendant be aware that the thing he altered, destroyed, or concealed was evidence in the investigation as it existed at the time of the alteration, destruction, or concealment. Thus, the court concluded the evidence was not legally sufficient to show Pannell altered, destroyed, or concealed the marijuana knowing that an investigation was pending or in progress. The appellate court reversed the trial court's judgment and entered judgment of acquittal.
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