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Jan 09, 2023

What Is the Punishment for Filing a False Police Report

One of the aspects of communal living is that issues and disagreements will arise from time to time. When this happens, it’s important to try and find an amicable solution.

But that’s not always the case. If so, such issues should not escalate to verbal or physical abuse. There are institutions such as the police and courts in place to help resolve them fairly. While the police are here to help you, they’re not a tool for punishing or getting revenge on people.

And this is a mistake many people make and do not know the potential ramifications. Filing a false police report is a serious crime that can have significant legal consequences.

In California, filing a false police report carries the potential for fines and even jail time. It’s important to understand what constitutes this crime and what penalties you may face if convicted.

This article will provide an overview of what constitutes filing a false police report in California and what punishments are associated with it. You’ll also learn how to avoid being charged with this offense and what steps to take if accused.

What Is a Police Report?


To document a crime and serve as an official reference at later court proceedings, law enforcement officers create police reports. These documents include information like:

  • A detailed description of what happened
  • Nature of the crime
  • Victim name
  • The witnesses involved
  • Any evidence collected at the scene
  • The suspect’s identity

How California Defines False Police Reports

In the state of California, a false police report can be classified in two ways: when someone knowingly provides incorrect information to an investigating officer or district attorney concerning any criminal activity (such as felonies and misdemeanors), or if they make fabricated accusations to law enforcement with the intent of starting/disrupting an investigation.

False report of a crime is under Penal Code section 148.5. This criminal offense is classified as a misdemeanor, and the law stipulates that only the individual who makes the false report understands it’s not true and recognizes that they are informing someone in an official capacity (e.g., law enforcement officer, 911 dispatcher, or prosecutor). Moreover, this statute renders providing inaccurate information to a grand jury equally punishable as a misdemeanor.

If a person making a police report states something false or withholds significant information from the criminal investigation, they may be held accountable for filing a fraudulent police report.

Furthermore, when someone deliberately misleads or deceives law enforcement with a false report, they can be prosecuted for obstruction of justice—squandering precious money, time, and resources from law enforcement.

Other related crimes include:

Falsely Identifying Yourself (Penal Code section 148.9)

When an officer of the law legally detains you, they’ll ask you to provide identification, like your name and address. Since they’re lawfully detaining you, you must comply. If you provide them with a false name and address, they can charge you with this offense.

This may occur at a traffic stop or when police respond to an emergency call. Providing a false identification can also include offering fake papers, like a driver’s license or other documents.

A violation of this section qualifies as a misdemeanor conviction, which may include up to six months of jail time or other penalties such as probation or fines amounting to $1,000. On the other hand, more serious violations can lead to harsher punishments, including evading arrest charges.

Falsely Accusing Another of a Crime (Penal Code section 148.6)

This statute makes it illegal for an individual to willfully accuse someone else of committing a crime with the knowledge that the accusation is false. Making a malicious accusation against another person can damage their reputation. It may include a punishment of up to six months in jail or up to $1,000 in fines for filing a false police report.

Does Mistakenly Providing False Information Qualify as a False Police Report?

When doing investigations, district attorneys and police officers require the support of citizens who can provide accurate and reliable information. As such, they appreciate individuals who are willing to provide information.

However, what happens if you provide incorrect or false information to the police by mistake (such as mistaken identity, incorrect dates or times of events)? Can you still be held accountable for filing a false police report?

It is important to understand what is meant by “false” in false police report. When someone mistakenly provides incorrect information, it does not necessarily mean that they are guilty of a crime and will be convicted of filing a false police report.

If you provide information without knowing it’s untrue and have no intention of submitting a false police report, then you have not broken the law. The prosecutor must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the person supplying the information knew what he was saying was false and willingly intended to deceive law enforcement.

Penalties Associated With Filing a False Police Report

While federal laws govern the filing of false reports, what constitutes a false report and the associated penalties vary from state to state. In California, someone who is convicted of filing a false police report can face a variety of punishments, including:

  • Probation (including supervised and unsupervised probation)
  • Jail time up to six months
  • Fines of up to $1,000
  • Restitution to the victim
  • Community service

The severity of the punishment depends on what type of false police report was filed and the circumstances surrounding the case. For example, if someone files a false domestic violence report out of spite or revenge, they may face harsher penalties than what is listed above.

When ruling on a conviction for filing a false police report, the court considers factors such as criminal history and motive. In some instances, probation may be granted instead of punishment. If an individual is convicted of felony filing a false police report, however, it can impact their rights indefinitely. These include:

  • The right to vote
  • The right to own or possess a firearm
  • Immigration status
  • Professional licenses
  • The privilege of operating a motor vehicle

Suppose a person deliberately files a false police report to accuse someone else of wrongdoing or to convince law enforcement to investigate an innocent party. The falsely accused person can file for civil action in that case. Through this process, they may seek monetary compensation as restitution for their suffering.

If you file a false police report against a person or company resulting in harm, they may be awarded damages including:

  • Legal fees
  • Emotional distress
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering

In some cases, a judge may also award punitive damages.

How to Avoid Being Charged

To avoid being charged with filing a false police report, it is best to provide the most accurate and honest information possible. When providing a statement to a police officer, tell what you know and what you have seen.

Do not offer any speculation or guesses, as this can be misinterpreted as false information. When providing a statement, make sure what you say is what you know to be true and accurate.

Possible Defenses of a False Police Report

Whether deliberately or not, you may find yourself accused of making a false police report. If so, an experienced criminal defense lawyer can help you. They understand the possible appropriate legal defenses for PC 148.5 allegations.

Some of the defenses you can use include:

You Did Not Report a Crime

If someone else reported a crime to the authorities on your behalf, you are not liable for false reporting. This could be because if you had merely talked with someone about it, they took matters into their own hands by informing an officer without prior warning.

You Didn’t Know the Report you Made was Inaccurate

If you made a statement to the police that you believed to be true, but it turned out to be inaccurate and false, then you are not guilty of filing a false police report. In this case, your defense attorney would have to prove that what you said was based on what you knew at the time and what you believed to be true.

Your Statement was Substantially True

If what you reported was substantially true despite some inaccuracies, a defense attorney could argue that what you reported was not false.

How Prosecutors Prove a Police Report Is False

To hold someone liable for filing a false police report, the prosecuting party must demonstrate that their actions fulfill that offense’s specific criteria. In this case, it is up to them to provide evidence supporting such allegations.

One of the key considerations during conviction of false police reports accusations is intent. This means that for you to be convicted, you must have had the intention to deceive or deliberately withhold information. An instance of this would be someone accusing a neighbor of trespassing when they knew the neighbor had permission to do what they were doing.

To get a conviction, the prosecution must demonstrate that what you reported to law enforcement was false, malicious, and not done with good intent. If they cannot prove this is the case, you may be eligible for case dismissal or acquittal.

Will a False Police Report Give You a Criminal Record?

False Police Report Lawyer

Yes. If convicted of filing a false police report in California, you could face misdemeanor or felony charges. Depending on the charges, you could end up with a criminal record that could stay on your record for life.

Fortunately, it’s possible to have your records expunged. To have your records expunged, you must meet certain eligibility criteria set out by California’s criminal laws. These include completing your probation period and having no new convictions during a certain time frame.

Why You Should Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are accused of filing a false police report, it is important to take the appropriate steps to protect your rights. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately, as they can protect your rights throughout the process.

Your attorney will conduct an independent investigation into the alleged incident, which can help build your defense. They will also familiarize themselves with what was said and done before filing the police report.

Your lawyer will ensure that any statements or information you provide is not used against you in a court of law. As such, it’s important to be mindful of what you say and do to avoid any further complications.

Finally, your attorney can help advise you on what the best course of action is for your situation. They will inform you of your rights and what defenses are available to you as the case progresses.

Choosing a Criminal Defense Attorney

When choosing a criminal defense attorney, it is important to select one with extensive experience in defending individuals accused of filing false police reports.

Experience and expertise will be invaluable when exploring what defenses are available to you. Make sure to hire someone who specializes in law relevant to your case and has an excellent track record of success on similar cases.

Other things you should consider include the following:

  • Professionalism
  • Client Reviews
  • Availability
  • Communication skills

An Attorney You Can Count on

Filing a false police report is a serious offense and can leave you with long-lasting legal repercussions. To protect your rights, it’s important to understand what constitutes a false police report and its associated penalties.

Working with an experienced criminal law attorney will be instrumental in helping you to defend yourself against such accusations. And this is what Silver Law Firm Offers.

We specialize in criminal defense and have years of experience defending clients accused of filing false police reports. When you work with Silver Law Firm, you can count on us to provide an aggressive defense strategy tailored to your unique situation – one that seeks to achieve the best outcome possible.

If you or someone you know is facing charges related to filing a false police report, contact us today to set up a free consultation and get started on your defense.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Mistakenly Providing False Information Qualify as a False Police Report?

Yes, California law states that knowingly providing false information while filing a police report is punishable by law. Even if what you stated was not done with malicious intent or bad faith, you can still be held liable for providing false information to law enforcement.

What Is the Punishment for Filing a False Police Report?

The punishment for filing a false police report depends on the circumstances of the case and what was said or done. Generally, making a false statement on a police report is classified as a misdemeanor in California, which carries penalties such as fines and up to six months in jail.

How Can I Avoid Being Charged With Filing a False Police Report?

The best way to avoid being charged with filing a false police report is to be honest and truthful when providing information to law enforcement. Make sure that what you say or do is accurate, as even minor inaccuracies can lead to serious legal repercussions.

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