Welcome to Beerup Law
Ruth Beerup is an experienced St. Charles criminal defense attorney who has spent her entire 25-year legal career defending clients' rights. She started in the public defender's office, learning to navigate the court system the hard way, and transitioned into a successful private practice based on client communication and unparalleled negotiation skills. Tampering charges are seldom clear-cut cases. It is important to have a strong advocate on your side to cut through the confusion and present your side of the story in a way that protects your future.
What Is the Charge of Tampering in Missouri?
Tampering covers a lot of ground in Missouri law. The statutory definition says to tamper is to interfere with something improperly, to meddle with it, displace it, make unwarranted alterations in its existing condition, or to deprive, temporarily, the owner or possessor of that thing. How that translates to the real world is that you can be charged with tampering for:
- Making an unauthorized connection to a utility or interfering with a utility meter to prevent proper measuring.
- Tampering with the property of another for the purpose of causing a substantial inconvenience to that person or another.
- Unlawfully riding in or upon another person's motor vehicle
- Purposefully damaging the property or facilities of a utility or an institution providing health or safety protection in order to cause a substantial interruption or impairment of service.
- Knowingly receiving, possessing, selling, or unlawfully operating a motor vehicle without the owner's consent.
- Tampering with computer data, equipment, or users in a wide variety of ways that generally fall under the rubric of “hacking.”
How Can You Beat a Tampering Charge?
Tampering charges can often be fought by showing that the defendant did not have the requisite mental state to commit the offense. For instance, in cases involving property or utility damage, it must be shown that the damage was “for the purpose” of causing substantial inconvenience to another person or substantial interruption of service. A skilled defense attorney can counter the circumstantial evidence that the state will use to show intention and present the defendant's behavior in a more favorable light.
The most common form of tampering charge involves what is otherwise known as motor vehicle theft. Defense against these charges can often rest on the word “knowingly.” This is seen in cases like In the Interest of V.L.P. 947 S.W. 2d 546, where a juvenile was arrested for driving a car his cousin had let him borrow. This was on May 9, and it turns out that a different person rented the vehicle from Enterprise on January 8. Enterprise reported the car stolen when it was not returned. When the juvenile was arrested, the vehicle showed no signs of being stolen, such as a broken steering column or evidence of forced entry. An appellate court ruled that the juvenile did not show criminal intent in using the vehicle.
This defense can be used even in cases where the defendant is less clearly innocent. In State v. Pressbury 128 S.W. 3d 80, the police were staking out an ATM where several robberies had recently been committed by someone matching a description of the defendant. The defendant arrived at the ATM in a stolen vehicle and parked in a spot nearby. The defendant's conviction for tampering with a motor vehicle was overturned because there was no evidence to tie him to the theft.
In many cases, tampering can be charged as a felony. If you are facing a tampering charge, don't face it alone. Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney like Ruth Beerup can be the difference between an outcome you can live with and one you have to live with. Consultations are free, and she is happy to answer your questions, so call her at the number at the top of the page.