Giving statements to police about the commission of an alleged crime is never a comfortable situation, regardless of whether the questioning is about the statement giver’s involvement or someone else’s illegal acts. People are understandably cautious about speaking to police in connection with a crime because one cannot be sure that law enforcement will not turn their suspicion to the person providing the information. Consequently, it is always best to bring a criminal defense attorney to interviews with police to ensure that one’s rights are protected and police questioning stays within the appropriate bounds. Notifying police about the criminal activities of others is laudable because it supports the welfare of a community as a whole. However, trouble can arise when someone gives the police misleading, incomplete or untrue information related to a crime or in response to police questioning. It may not seem like a serious matter, but the repercussions for providing false information to a police officer in California can be severe. Thus, understanding what constitutes providing false information, and the potential penalties, should be kept in mind before speaking to police. An overview of the offenses related to this issue will follow below.
Reporting a False Crime
First, it should be understood that making a good faith claim about a crime to police that later turns out to be untrue will not result in criminal charges. The problems arise when a person intentionally offers untrue information or withholds relevant information. California makes it an offense to knowingly give a false report to anyone employed to take crime reports. This group of individuals includes, in addition to police, the district attorney or anyone employed by a government agency to take crime reports. Examples of a false report are:
- saying a crime happened when it did not;
- providing false details about a crime; or
- falsely reporting property damage or theft.
This offense is usually charged as a misdemeanor with penalties of up to six months in county jail, a $1,000 fine or both. It can, however, be charged as a felony if the false report is connected to perjury (making false statements under oath) or fraud (filing a false report to collect insurance, for example).
California also criminalizes providing a false or fake name to a police officer. This offense occurs when a person provides the false identifying information to a police officer that was acting in his/her official capacity, while knowing or should have known he/she was speaking with an officer. Similar to reporting a false crime, false identification is a misdemeanor brings potential penalties of up to six months in county jail, a $1,000 fine, or both if convicted.
Giving Police False Information
Finally, a person can be charged with a crime for intentionally giving the police false information in connection with a traffic stop while the officer is performing his/her duties. Possible violations include any of the following:
- providing a false answer;
- presenting false insurance documents;
- offering a false vehicle registration; or
- giving the officer a borrowed or fake driver’s license.
Like the related offenses discusses above, a conviction for giving false information would be a misdemeanor with up to six months in jail, a $1,000 fine or both. However, if the false information was offered in an effort to evade arrest, additional felony charges could be possible.
Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney
Misdemeanors may seem like minor issues that have no real impact on a person’s life, but the consequences are serious and real. Criminal convictions can affect employment, housing options and eligibility for government benefits. These repercussions are the reason you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side committed to fighting for your innocence. Manshoory Law Group, APC represents clients accused of crimes in Los Angeles, and will use all options at their disposal to get you the best possible outcome. Attorneys are available 24/7. Contact us for a free consultation.