When an Illinois nanny claimed for the record that two armed men had tried to hijack her car in the midst of an ongoing manhunt, she wanted nothing more than attention from the family that employed her. Instead, she got something she never expected: a response team including three helicopters, 11 K-9 units and more than 100 members of law enforcement.
Once the falsity of her allegations became apparent, she suddenly found herself under arrest for falsifying a police report (NRS 207.280). While her sentence for filing an untrue police report could consist of as many as three years in prison, she may also be forced to cough up tens of thousands of dollars in restitution charges to cover the cost of the resulting investigatory work.
The First Amendment may protect a large number of things, but the filing of false police reports is not among them. This illegal activity can constitute either a felony or a misdemeanor depending on such things as:
- The locality in which the subterfuge took place.
- The type of offense for which the false report was filed.
- The severity of the resultant harm.
- The amount of expense and inconvenience it created for the police.
Each of these points will assist in determining not only the severity of the crime but also its subsequent punishment.
The Components of a False Police Report
Although a false police report can consist of positive statements that turn out to be partially or totally untrue, this is not always the case. A false police report can also consist of omissions that point to an incorrect conclusion. Those who deliberately choose to leave out particular facts may honestly forget to include them, but more often they are operating under the theory of what the police don’t know can’t possibly hurt them. If someone files a police report stating that a person deliberately hit him with a golf ball but conveniently neglects to add that his supposed attacker had simply sliced the ball in error from a nearby green, that person will have given a false filing. This sort of material omission gives the erroneous impression that an accidental act occurred intentionally.
When attempting to prove the defendant guilty of having filed a false police report, the prosecutor will have to demonstrate beyond a doubt that the accused and the filer are one and the same. He will also have to show that the suspect made his statements:
- While responding to law enforcement’s inquiries concerning an incident, offense or crime within that officer’s purview.
- With the intention of obstructing, deceiving or hindering.
- Knowing that his statements were incomplete or false.
Although an honest misunderstanding or misstatement will not equate to guilt, anyone who knowingly and intentionally lies to the police can be found guilty of having filed a false report. Each of these incriminating elements did obtain in the case of Kiefer, who is currently free on $100,000 bond and awaiting her trial date in September, 2016.
Penalties for Filing a False Police Report
In most cases, the seriousness of the crime of filing a false report will match the severity of the infraction about which a person has shaded the truth. For example, lying about a misdemeanor will usually result in the charge of misdemeanor along with a sentence ranging from probation to as many as two years in the county jail. On the other hand, someone who lies about a felony will face charges at the felony level and penalties that range in gravity from probation to a prison sentence of between two and 10 years.
For many, punishment will include the mandatory reimbursement of any funds expended by law enforcement while dealing with fallout from the false report. Such civil sanctions as contempt of court and enforced payment of attorney’s fees may also apply, and if the false report has gotten someone wrongfully accused of a crime, the defendant could soon be defending himself against a civil suit while facing his criminal charges.
Defenses Against Having Filed a False Police Report
If you find that you have inadvertently filed a false police report, it’s important to contact an attorney to and correct the misinformation as soon as you possibly can. Any hesitation is sure to cast suspicion upon your original motives.
Otherwise, defenses will mainly revolve around attempting to show that you had no intention of deliberately misleading law enforcement and were honestly unaware that the information you were giving was incorrect. In cases of this nature, the assistance of a criminal attorney can be invaluable. If you are being charged with having filed a false report, contact Weiner Law Group today at 702-202-0500.