Legislature passes bill to increase penalties for those covering up deadly crimes
Otto/Nichols bill makes tampering with evidence involving a human body a second degree felony.
AUSTIN -- Tuesday, HB 872 by Rep. John Otto (R-Dayton) and sponsored by Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) was approved by the Legislature after unanimously passing the Senate. The bill, which previously passed the House without opposition, raises the penalty for tampering with evidence from a third degree felony to a second degree felony.
"We should penalize anyone who tampers with evidence, but when that tampering involves a human body, the act is especially vile and often a means of covering up a violent crime," said Otto. "District attorneys have asked for the ability to prosecute this tampering more aggressively, and the Legislature has willingly given it to them."
William Lee Hon, a district attorney from both Otto and Nichols' districts, pushed for the legislation after trying an especially heinous case where a four-year-old boy was killed and buried in his backyard. Because of the state of the victim's body, it was impossible to convict either of the two possible suspects of the murder, though it was clear both had tampered with the body. Both suspects received only a ten-year sentence.
"Rep. Otto and I deeply appreciate that Lee Hon brought this issue to our attention," said Nichols. "As legislators, it's important we give our district attorneys the tool they need to properly prosecute violent crimes."
The maximum penalty for a third degree felony is 10 years imprisonment and a fee not to exceed $10,000. The maximum penalty for a second degree felony is 20 years imprisonment and a fee not to exceed $10,000.
The legislation now heads to the governor for his signature before finally becoming law.