What Happens if I Lie to Police
About Someone's Crime?
By Ben Hartwig
Giving false information to a law enforcement officer can result in a criminal conviction. Additionally, this can cause a string of multiple criminal consequences. Due to the impact that misleading statements are likely to cause in a criminal case.
Is Filing a False Police Report a Crime?
It’s indeed a criminal offense to give a false report of a crime to law enforcement. This hinders the police in the performance of their duties. The crime is referred to as “making false statements”. There are a few other crimes that you can be charged with after giving a false statement:
- Accessory After the Fact - As an accessory, you assist in the commission of a crime. You do not participate in the commission of the crime. For example, where you find out about the felony crime after it takes place but then you decide to give falsified information about the details of the crime. Often the intent is to cover for someone so that they escape arrest, conviction, and punishment.
- Obstruction of Justice - This is an act where one purposefully interferes with an investigation. Examples include (but are not limited to), destroying evidence or communicating false or deceptive information. This delays and hinders the administration of justice.
- Perjury - This is the deliberate giving of false or misleading testimony under oath. An oath is given prior to giving testimony in a trial, and it requires you to swear or affirm that your testimony will be truthful. You stand to be charged with perjury if you do not tell the truth. When you’re dealing and speaking with the police you’re typically not under oath. You may not commit perjury by lying to them, but you have likely committed another crime.
How a Police Report Is Proved As False
You will need to prove that:
- The crime has been reported to a police officer - An actual documented report must have been filed.
- The report was untrue - You must prove that the statement(s) given in the police report is/are false.
- The false report was intentional - Provide evidence showing that the false statement was not caused due to negligence or mistake.
Can a False Police Report Show Up in Your Public Records?
The duty of the police is to investigate crimes and then make arrests. They do not charge people with crimes. Charges are filed by prosecutors. A court case is opened once a person has been formally charged.
This means police records are not part of the court system. Documents such as arrest reports or crime/incident reports kept at police departments are not open to the public as court records are. These will only show up in your police records if you have been formally charged in court.
Consequences and Penalties
Giving a police officer a false report can lead to several criminal penalties. After it is proved that a false statement was made with the intent to mislead justice; one can be convicted.
As highlighted earlier, often the result of a false report is the obstruction or hindrance of a police investigation. Penalties vary across jurisdictions. It may be charged as an infraction, misdemeanor, or felony. This is all dependent on the gravity of the crime.
- Infraction - This charge is punishable by a fine and does not subject an offender to incarceration.
- Misdemeanors - These are punishable by fines, incarceration in jail, or a combination of the two. Jail sentences are typically one year or less.
- Felony - This is the most serious of criminal offenses. The penalty for which is typically both incarceration and a fine in prison. This crime can attract sentences ranging from 1 year to 20 years.
When You Should Hire a Lawyer
The moment you realize the information you provided was incorrect, contact the police immediately and rectify your statement. If you have been charged with filing a false report, you should be hiring a lawyer to act in your defense. An experienced lawyer will help you identify the appropriate legal defenses based on the specifics of your case.
Regardless of how desperate your situation is, filing a false police report is a very bad idea. You could face long term financial and criminal consequences. It’s simply not worth it. However, if you are accused of making misleading statements, consider hiring a lawyer. A good lawyer will give you the best advice for your situation.
About the author:
Ben Hartwig is a Web Operations Executive at InfoTracer who takes a wide view from the whole system. He authors guides on entire security posture, both physical and cyber. Enjoys sharing the best practices and does it the right way!