About three years ago, a friend of mine was involved in an accident with a fatality.

Now he finds out on his last report that the police “cut” the airbags out of the car to bring them as evidence. My question is, would that be tampering with evidence? My feelings were that he could’ve at least taken a picture of the deployed bags because there is no way now for them to know if they came from that car.

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    Hi, Mag. There are a lot of details here that are not needed for the question, but OTOH details missing or unclear. Lawyer wants to send someone to see the road- is that now, three years later? He knows where it is, so what is stopping him. "He won't tell anyone anything..." Who? The lawyer, the expert? Airbags- did the police take crime scene photos, an accident reconstruction evaluation? Rain: There are ways of looking up what the weather was on a date. What is the defense strategy and what do you believe is being hindered? The lawyer should be advising on this and evidentiary procedures.
    – Damila
    Commented Mar 23, 2021 at 14:42
  • Voting to close for lack of focus. The headline question is about the airbags, but the question contains no information about them other than the fact that someone took them as evidence. Police forensics are allowed to do destructive things in order to get evidence (e.g. lifting a fingerprint destroys the original fingerprint), but obviously not in order to conceal the truth (e.g. lifting a fingerprint and then claiming no fingerprints could be found). So whether this is "tampering" depends on why they were cut and what happened next. Commented Mar 23, 2021 at 15:50
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    Yes -- lots of facts to engender sympathy for OP's friend; basically no facts to apply the law to.
    – bdb484
    Commented Mar 23, 2021 at 18:09
  • Also where this happened.
    – Ryan M
    Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 2:59

1 Answer 1


There is no way now for them to know if they came from that car

No, not necessarily.

Evidence needs to be introduced in an admissible form as dictated by the particular jurisdiction's procedural rules - usually by witness statements establishing where the item came from (its "provenance") and a chronological account stating who had control of the item - and why if it's relevant - in what is often called the "chain of custody" or the "continuity of evidence". Any and all of these witnesses can be challenged by the defence if there is any doubt that the airbags, for example, are not the ones from the accident.

Would that be tampering with evidence?

Again, not necessarily. The airbags may need to be removed for any number of legitimate reasons: forensic examination; physical inspection; to show if they were, or were not, deployed... Again, it's up to the defence to question the reasons behind their removal.

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    Even with the chain of custody argument ignored, its entirely possible to match up two sides of a cut piece of cloth together again by analysis of both sides.... If theres any doubt, the court can require such an analysis and the defence can have their own opportunity to carry out an independent analysis.
    – user28517
    Commented Mar 23, 2021 at 23:59
  • This analysis is called establishing a "mechanical fit" or a "physical match examination" and is just one discipline within the whole gamut of forensic science.
    – user35069
    Commented Apr 7, 2021 at 7:23

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