Making a False Report of a Crime

Falsifying a police report and reporting a crime that never happened is against the law. Contrary to popular belief, this is not the equivalent of telling a simple lie. Attempting to ruin someone else’s life by reporting an invented crime to authorities is considered an abuse of the legal system. Taking advantage of law enforcement and wasting their time with fake reports will have consequences.

If convicted, you will face legal penalties and it could impact your criminal record. A criminal record will affect future employment opportunities, housing options, and academic goals. Being charged with making a false report of a crime is not to be taken lightly. Finding an effective and trusted defense lawyer to help with your case is highly recommended.

To gain a more critical understanding of what it means to make a false report of a crime, let’s take a look at how California defines it.

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Defining Making A False Report Of A Crime

California outlines what it means to make a false report of a crime under Penal Code 148.5. The definition states this law is violated if you report to an authority that a crime was committed, knowing that report was false. Essentially, you commit this crime if you:

  • Make a false report of a crime,
    • False statements mean a scenario that was invented, imagined, fictional, fake, made-up, or fabricated.
    • The imagined crime that is being reported can be either a misdemeanor or a felony.
  • To an authority figure,
    • An authority figure includes a police officer, a prosecutor, a grand jury, a district attorney, deputy district attorney, Attorney General, deputy attorney general, a state or local 911 operator with the professional duty to accept reports of a crime or an emergency from the people.
  • Knowing it was false.
    • This means you purposely filed a false report of a crime. You knew it was a false statement, but you reported it anyway.

This law also applies to people who make a false statement during a criminal investigation.

For instance;

  • If a crime was committed and witnesses were questioned;
  • and the witnesses falsely reported what happened, they could also be guilty of violating PC 148.5.

Associated Offenses

Please note, it is possible to face more than one offense depending on the details of your case. If this is your situation, contact a criminal defense lawyer who can fight these charges on your behalf. The list below is just some of the related offenses that can be charged in addition to PC 148.5.

Penal Code 148 - Resisting Arrest;

This crime is committed when you purposely delay, obstruct, or resist a law enforcement officer or EMT(emergency medical technician) from executing their duties.

Penal Code 148.9 - Providing false identification to a police officer;

This law states it is a crime to knowingly provide a false ID to a member of law enforcement.

Penal Code 148.4 - Filing a false report of a fire;

You violate this law when you make a false report of a fire, trigger a false fire alarm, or if you break or tamper with fire protection equipment.

Penal Code 148.3 - Falsely reporting an emergency;

This law prohibits making a false report of an emergency, such as falsely reporting an Amber alert, causing an evacuation of a building, structure, or vehicle, or falsely reporting a fire or dangerous situation that would trigger emergency personnel to be deployed.

Vehicle Code 31 - Providing false statements to a police officer;

You violate this law when you choose to provide a false document, information, or ID to a police officer. Such instances include presenting a false driver’s license, name, or vehicle registration to a cop during a traffic stop.

Penal Code 529 - False Impersonation;

This crime is committed when you use someone else’s name or identity for personal gain, for an unjust advantage, or to cause this other person harm.

Penal Code 530.5 - Identity Theft;

This law states it is a crime to take another person’s identifying cards, papers, or personal information and use it in any illegal or fraudulent manner.

The Prosecution

The prosecution takes PC 148.5 offenses seriously, especially when considering the egregiousness of telling lies on a police report or reporting falsehoods to federal or state authorities. The prosecution will work hard to get a conviction for falsely reporting a crime. However, they must first prove beyond a reasonable doubt the facts of the case. These factors are referred to as elements of the crime, which are:

  • You made a false report of a misdemeanor or felony crime, and
  • You made that report to a member of law enforcement or related authority, and
    • Authoritative officials include the police, Attorney General, deputy attorney general, D.A. (district attorney), deputy D.A., the prosecutor, a grand jury, a judge, or a 911 operator.
  • You knew the report was fabricated.

To be charged with this crime, you had to have known what you were doing. Assuming something was most likely true is not a legitimate defense. If you knew the statements you reported were completely fabricated, exaggerated, or distorted, the prosecution may pursue charges for PC 148.5.

Who Can Be Charged

There are numerous reasons why someone would choose to falsely accuse another person of a crime. The driving factors in deciding to blatantly or underhandedly lie on a police report can range from simple fear to getting revenge.

For a critical understanding of situations that can lead to charges take a look at the following examples. They illustrate who can be charged with making a false report of a crime under PC 148.5.

Example 1:

Kess threw a house party and was playing extremely loud music. It was nearly 1 a.m. when police arrived, responding to disturbing the peace complaints. They found a few party-goers were underage. Several of Kess’s friends were charged with minor in possession or MIPs. She found out her neighbor, Harold was one of the people that reported her party and vowed revenge.

She accused him of being a drug dealer who was selling illicit party drugs to high school kids. She was able to get a couple of her friends to make the same statements. When they were all questioned separately, Kess was the only one who could get Harold’s name right. The inconsistencies in their statements were enough to reveal the truth. They had lied. Kess and her friends could face charges for PC 148.5, making a false report of a crime.

Example 2:

Freddy wanted to play an extreme joke on his cousin Lee for his youtube channel. He overheard a couple of his neighbors saying they had reported their mountain bikes stolen. So he anonymously reported his cousin, Lee for the thefts. It wasn’t difficult for investigators to find out the anonymous tip came from Freddy, as he was bragging about the joke on his youtube channel.

Freddy admitted he was lying, saying it was all for laughs. Falsely accusing someone of a crime for the sake of comedy is not a valid defense. He was charged with PC 148.5, making a false report of a crime.

Example 3:

Ashley’s boyfriend, Zach got into a fight with someone at the bar. When police officers began collecting witness statements, Ashley claimed her boyfriend wasn’t the one that started it. Other bar patrons, however, had witnessed Zack being the instigator and was also the one that threw the first punch. Ashley vehemently objected, calling everyone liars. Bar footage showed that Ashley had not even seen the altercation, as she was ordering drinks at the bar. Ashley was charged with PC 148.5 for making a false statement of a crime to police during an investigation.

Example 4:

George considered himself the neighborhood watch. He would often stop joggers and bikers to ask if they were from the neighborhood. Chantel was jogging by when George stepped directly in her path, forcing her to stop. He began grilling her with questions like who was she, where was she from, and why was she here. She refused to answer and began to jog around him. George ran after her. Afraid for her safety, Chantel ran faster. When George could not keep up he stopped running, picked up a rock, and threw it at her. Then he called 911 and falsely reported her for assault, claiming she threatened him by getting into his personal space. Then he falsely stated that she shoved him when she ran around him to continue her jog.

Chantel had done the same, called 911 to report a man who was chasing her. She also stated he was attempting to hit her with rocks while she was jogging. She provided the operator with full details on the clothes George was wearing.

George could be charged with PC 148.5, making a false report of a crime for simply lying to the 911 operator. If Chantel felt her safety was compromised by George’s behavior, she would be within her rights to press charges for PC 240 assault.

Legal Defense

Getting the right legal representation does not have to be difficult. An excellent legal defense can mean the difference between the worse possible outcome or potentially beating these charges altogether.

An experienced criminal defense attorney will be familiar with some of the most common legal defenses used to oppose charges for PC 148.5, making a false report of a crime. Here are just some of the typical legal defenses used to fight this offense.

Did you believe the report was true?

Lack of knowledge in this case means you did not know the report or statement(s) you were divulging were false. If you had it in ‘good faith’ that the information was true, you would not be guilty of making a false police report. Although the report was mistaken, as outlined under PC 148.5, the guilty party has to knowingly make a false statement to be charged.

Example:

Eileen was keeping an eye on her next-door neighbors’ home while they were on vacation. She saw someone she had never met, Tom, enter the home by going through the back entrance. She called 911 and reported a trespasser. When she saw him exit the home with a box of things, she reported that he was burglarizing the home.

It turned out Tom was innocent, simply a family member picking up some personal items. Eileen truly believed he was committing PC 602 trespassing and PC 459 burglary. The report was false, but at the time of the report, she sincerely believed there was a legitimate crime taking place. She would not be guilty of PC 148.5, making a false report of a crime.

Are you the victim of a false accusation?

Unfortunately, there are cases of false accusations where the victim is wrongfully blamed for a crime they did not commit or for a crime that was unjustly blamed on them.

Example:

Nadia had full custody of her son after a divorce. It was a domestic violence situation and she wanted to protect her child. Her new boyfriend, Frank, grew jealous when Nadia got a ride home from a male co-worker. They argue about it, she breaks up with him and he gets enraged. He goes to the police department and files a report of a crime, falsely alleging that the domestic violence charges Nadia made against her ex-husband were fabricated. Then he accuses her of committing child abuse on her son.

Nadia’s defense lawyer was able to get statements from the son that clearly showed the truth. Frank’s child abuse, PC 273d accusations were a lie, which also cast doubt on his PC 148.5 charges. Especially considering Nadia suffered physical injuries from her ex-husband, which were well documented in her medical records. The charges were dropped and Frank was charged with making a false report of a crime.

Did you tell a legitimate authority?

A conviction for PC 148.5, falsely reporting a crime, requires that the defendant made the report to someone in a position of authority, specifically a law enforcement official or a 911 operator. If this factor is not present, one should not face this offense. Making the statements to a legitimate authority figure is part of the elements of the crime.

Example:

Peter got a black eye and broken rib from sparring and hated the attention he was getting at a party. After drinking too much, he made-up a story that he was jumped, and his wallet was stolen while he was out jogging. This got the attention of Erin, an EMT. She encouraged him to go with her to the police station. At first, he agreed, but when they arrived at the police station he told her the truth. Angry and thinking he made-up this story to pick-up women, she tried to report him for PC 148.5.

Erin is not considered a legitimate authority figure when it comes to filing or reporting a crime. Although Peter lied about how he sustained his injuries, he did not intend on making a false report of a crime and would not be guilty.

Penalties for PC 148.5

If convicted of making a false report of a crime you face a:

Misdemeanor;

A county jail sentence lasting as long as six months, and/or

Fines as high as one thousand dollars.

Reduced or Enhanced Consequences

A conviction for PC 148.5 will result in a stain on your criminal record. However, to get this reduced, essentially stricken from your record, you can get it expunged. This means a judge can approve an expungement from your permanent record only if you complete any probation and/or jail time assigned to you.

Enhanced penalties can apply based on your criminal background and the specifics of your case. If any other offenses were committed in addition to making a false report of a crime, you would face compounded penalties. This means any convictions of related offenses could lead to increased fines or longer probation.

For multiple offenses, any county jail or prison sentences would also be added and you would have to serve the time consecutively. If more than one conviction is made, you would most likely lose the ability to get any conviction possibly expunged.

Penalties for Associated Offenses

If charged with more than one offense, you will face higher fines, longer county jail or prison sentences, and a long-term impact on your overall future. Finding a knowledgeable defense lawyer to oppose these allegations can mean the difference between facing maximum penalties or getting the best possible results.

Penal Code 148 - Resisting Arrest;

Misdemeanor;

Summary (informal) probation,

Fines as high as one thousand dollars, and/or

A potential county jail sentence of up to one year.

Penal Code 148.9 - Providing false identification to a police officer;

Misdemeanor;

Misdemeanor (summary) probation,

Up to one thousand dollars in fines, and/or

A potential county jail sentence of up to six months.

Penal Code 148.4 - Filing a false report of a fire;

Misdemeanor;

A possible county jail sentence of one year.

Felony;

A potential state prison sentence of up to three years.

Penal Code 148.3 - Falsely reporting an emergency;

Misdemeanor;

Informal (misdemeanor) probation, and/or

A county jail sentence of up to one year.

Felony;

As long as three years of incarceration in state prison.

Vehicle Code 31 - Providing false statements to a police officer;

Misdemeanor;

A possible county jail sentence of up to six months, and/or

Fines as high as one thousand dollars.

Penal Code 529 - False Impersonation;

Misdemeanor;

Summary (informal) probation,

As long as one year in county jail, and/or

Fines as high as ten thousand dollars.

Felony:

Formal (felony) probation,

As long as three years in county jail, and/or

Maximum fines of up to ten thousand dollars.

Penal Code 530.5 - Identity Theft;

Misdemeanor;

Informal (summary) probation,

As long as one year in county jail, and/or

Maximum fines of one thousand dollars.

Felony;

Felony (formal) probation,

As long as three years in county jail, and/or

Fines as high as ten thousand dollars.

Let Us Help

It can feel overwhelming to face a PC 148.5 offense without an expert criminal defense lawyer by your side. If you or someone you care about is facing charges for making a false report of a crime or any of the aforementioned offenses, contact the Law Offices of Anna R. Yum.

Attorney Yum understands what it takes to fight for your rights and your future. Attorney Yum knows how hard the prosecution will try to get a conviction. For more information or to schedule your no-obligation, free consultation, call us at 619-233-4433 or use our online contact form.

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