Filing a false police report is a serious offense punishable under both federal and state laws. Someone may do this for a number of reasons, such as trying to lead the police to a different suspect if the person making the report was involved in the underlying crime. It can often lead to other charges being filed, such as obstruction of justice.
What are the Elements of Filing a False Police Report?
If you are charged with the crime of filing a false police report, the prosecutor will have the burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that your actions met the elements for this crime.
While it may slightly vary depending on your jurisdiction, in order to be found guilty of filing a false police report the following must occur:
- You knowingly make a false report to a law enforcement officer;
- The false report will generally be offered in response to legitimate inquiries by a law enforcement officer;
- The report must be material to a pending criminal investigation; and
- You intended to deceive, obstruct or hinder a criminal investigation.
However, if you made a false statement to the police but reasonably believed it was true, you can not be found guilty of this crime.
What can Happen if I am Found Guilty of Filing a False Police Report?
Depending on the jurisdiction that you are in, the crime of filing a false police report can result in misdemeanor or felony charges if convicted. Your sentence could include paying fines, probation or even jail time.
The overall severity of your punishment will usually depend on the impact that your false report had on the pending criminal investigation.
For example, if you filed a false report of terrorism you will likely face a harsher sentence because your actions interfered with national security. In addition, if your false report caused another person to be injured or killed you will likely face a harsher sentence.
Lastly, you could also face civil liability for filing a false police report. If your false statements were about an individual and they suffered loss, they have the right to file a civil complaint against you. This could result in an award of money damages that you would be responsible for paying.
If Charged with Filing a False Police Report, What are my Defenses?
As always, you may have defenses to argue if you are charged with filing a false police report. Whether these defense work will depend on the particular facts of your case. Some of these include:
- You did not have the intent to deceive, obstruct or hinder a criminal investigation;
- You did not know the statements you were making were untrue; and
- You were intoxicated when the report was made.
Do I Need to Contact an Attorney?
If you are charged with filing a false police report, you should contact a local criminal defense attorney. Your criminal attorney can review your case and formulate a defense on your behalf. Your attorney can also try to negotiate a deal with the prosecutor and try to avoid jail time.