Crime of Filing a False Report of Terrorism

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 What is a False Police Report?

Police reports are documents which are created when crimes are reported to law enforcement. A police report generally contains the following information:

  • The name of the victim;
  • The name of the perpetrator;
  • The nature of the offense;
  • The names of any potential witnesses; and
  • Any other relevant information.

The purpose of a police report is to have a written record of each specific event which occurred when referencing the incident. This is especially important if the incident goes to trial.

Members of the public regularly file police reports when crimes are committed, as they provide relevant information to ongoing police investigations. If, however, an individual knowingly provides false or misleading information to law enforcement when filing a report, they may be found guilty of filing a false police report as well as other related offenses.

An individual who files a false police report may be charged whether they affirmatively make a false statement, such as providing false information, or if the individual deliberately withholds information which is material to a criminal investigation. Filing a false police report in order to mislead law enforcement may be considered to be obstruction of justice because it causes law enforcement to waste:

  • Time;
  • Money; and
  • Precious resources.

The prosecution has the burden of proof to show that, beyond a reasonable doubt, the individual who made the false police report satisfied the elements of the crime with which they are charged. The intent to provide false information is what separates false police reports from simply making a report which was filed due to a mistake of fact.

It is important to note that if an individual simply makes a mistake when providing information, that will not result in a false police report charge.

Is it a Felony to File a False Police Report?

There are both state laws and federal laws which govern the filing of a false police report. It is important for an individual to be aware that each individual jurisdiction determines whether the charge of filing a false police report is a misdemeanor or a felony in the jurisdiction.

No matter what the classification of the offense is, the defendant’s punishment will most likely depend upon the severity of the impact that the false report has on the criminal investigation or on the lives of the public. Punishment for filing a false police report may include:

  • Criminal fines;
  • Jail time;
  • A combination of fines and jail time; and/or
  • Probation.

If an individual is charged with a misdemeanor, they may face criminal fines as well as up to one year in jail. If the individual is charged with a felony under local or state laws, they may face jail time which exceeds one year as well as criminal fines.

Pursuant to federal laws, the individual may also be charged with filing a false report of terrorism. This may include both making a threat, including calling in a false bomb threat, as well as accusing another individual of making a threat of terrorism.

The most severe punishments are typically reserved for individuals who make false claims of terrorism. These punishments may include being sentenced to a federal facility for up to 20 years.

If an individual files a false police report with the intent to accuse another individual of a crime or with the intent to lead law enforcement to investigate an innocent individual, the falsely accused individual may be able to file a civil lawsuit. The falsely accused individual would file a lawsuit in order to seek substantial damages.

If a defendant is convicted of a felony, their constitutional rights may be impacted, including:

  • The right to vote;
  • The right to operate a motor vehicle;
  • The right to hold a professional license;
  • The individual’s immigration status; and
  • The right to own a firearm.

Is it Illegal to File a False Report of Terrorism?

Yes, in many states, it is illegal to file a false report of terrorism. Most states have statutes making it illegal for an individual to make a false report of a terrorist attack or threat.

These types of false claims are considered to be a great waste of resources, which include personnel, time, and money, which could be devoted to legitimate investigations.

The main concern with false reports of terrorist activity is that these reports may have the same effect on the public as a legitimate report of terrorist activity. As a result of this issue, there are many states which categorize a false report of terrorism as a felony. States which have passed these types of laws include Michigan and New York.

What Are the Legal Consequences of the Crime of False Report of Terrorism?

In a large number of states, the crime of filing a false report of terrorism includes prison time in a federal facility, with a sentence which ranges anywhere from 7 to 20 years. The consequences of this crime may also include heavy fines.

In some states, filing a false report of terrorism is considered to be a violent felony, even if a defendant did not specifically commit a violent act. The elements that the prosecution must provide for a charge of filing a false report of terrorism include:

  • The defendant make a false report of a terrorist act or a terrorist threat;
  • Knowledge that the report was untrue; and
  • Communicated the false report to another individual.

It is important to note that this definition also includes making reports regarding fake threats and not just terrorist activity. It may also include falsely including another individual of being a terrorist knowing that the accusation is false.

A common example of this offense occurs when an individual makes a phone call to law enforcement and states that a bomb has been placed in a public area such as a stadium or airport. If the individual knew that the threat was false, they will most likely be liable under criminal law and, if convicted, they will have a felony on their criminal record.

As noted above, a felony conviction may have an effect on numerous rights of the individual.

Is this Different From Lying to the Police or Making a False Statement?

The offense of providing a false report of terrorism is different from lying to law enforcement or making a false statement. This is because lying to law enforcement is a more general crime which does not always involve terrorist activity.

In addition, making a false statement in court is considered a different crime, called perjury. It is also handled in a different manner than the crime of a false report of terrorism and may be punished differently.

The crime of a false report of terrorism focuses on an act of or the threat of an act of terrorism. It is not required that this is communicated to law enforcement or other authorities. If an individual reports to a neighbor or co-worker, it may be considered enough to trigger the offense of making a false report of terrorism.

Do I Need a Lawyer for False Report of Terrorism Issues?

It is essential to have the assistance of a criminal defense lawyer if you are facing a charge of filing a false report of terrorism. If you make a report of terrorist activity, it is important to be sure that the report is not false.

If you mistakenly made a report believing the information was accurate and true, you will not face criminal charges. If, however, you provide false information on purpose, you may face serious criminal penalties.

Your lawyer can review your case and determine if any defenses are available to you, such as a mistake of fact or a lack of knowledge that your statement was false. Your lawyer will also defend you any time you appear in court.

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