Harris v. State (Unpublished Memo): It’s tampering with evidence if there’s an investigation underway, or you know you committed a crime. Harris was riding his bike on the wrong side of the street at night without “proper illumination.” He was in what Tyler PD officers describe as a “high drug” area. The cops stopped Harris to question him. He mumbled his name, because he was busy eating something. The officers asked Harris to spit whatever it was out of his mouth. But all that was left in the spit and in his mouth were a few green leafy flakes. The officers had their suspicions, and Harris admitted that he had swallowed a marijuana “roach.”
By eating the evidence, Harris turned a possession charge into a tampering with evidence charge. That’s a bad deal. Especially in light of his prior felony DWI. He got sixteen years.
Harris contends that he can’t be guilty of tampering with evidence because there was no ongoing investigation at the time he was chewing. In essence, Harris contends you can’t be convicted of tampering when the investigation was really into whether there was tampering.
But that misses the Tyler court’s point. Texas Penal Code Section 37.09 make the destruction of evidence illegal if there is an ongoing investigation or if you know you’ve committed a crime and you try to cover your tracks before an investigation even gets started. The conviction is affirmed on that prong of the statute.
Harris also argues that sixteen years is disproportionately long for eating a roach. The Tyler court rejects that argument because: 1. Harris waived it because he didn’t make it to the trial court; 2. His sentence is within statutory guidelines so, at least on the face of it, the sentence is constitutional; and 3. The Supreme Court of the United States, in Rummel, affirmed the constitutionality of a habitual offender law that turned a $120.75 crime into a life sentence.