Tampering with digital evidence in a criminal trial can get you into big trouble. Although rare, a perjury charge often carries a higher potential prison term than the underlying crime.
Last summer in Traverse City, a woman testified on behalf of her boyfriend at his child abuse trial. The victim in the boyfriend's criminal case was the woman's teenage son.
Problems arose in the TC household when the woman's boyfriend tossed the teen out of the woman's home. When the boy returned a short time later to retrieve some of his personalty, a physical confrontation between the teenager and the boyfriend ensued [we've seen this movie before], resulting in criminal charges of 4th degree child abuse.
At the man's trial, the Mom brought printouts of her son's Facebook page and testified that her son was actually engaged in a FB conversation at the time of the alleged beat-down. The prosecutor wasn't buying it, and questioned the witness about whether she had altered the documents she brought into court in any manner.
When the Mom responded "no" to the prosecutor's line of questions, the proffered evidence was subjected to a forensic examination which revealed that the computer's time zone setting was altered to line-up the FB posts with the time of the beating. A simple but effective "gotcha" moment that prosecutors live for.
Apparently, this woman must now answer to a felony warrant for perjury and tampering with evidence. The woman's exposure in her criminal case is 15-years in prison; a much steeper penalty than the one faced by her violent boyfriend.
This case illustrates the principle that, when digital evidence is involved, every key stroke can be verified. Perjury is rarely charged due to the inherent difficulties with proofs. In this case, however, the digital evidence supports the charges, and the accused does not garner any sympathy; at least not from us over here at the Law Blogger.