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Is It a Crime in California to File a False Police Report?

February 28, 2019

Actor Jussie Smollett has made headlines for allegedly filing a false police report

Is It a Crime in California to File a False Police Report?In late January, actor and singer Jussie Smollett told Chicago police that two men approached him late at night, put a rope around his neck, and threw bleach at him.  While they did this, they allegedly shouted racist and homophobic slurs and shouted “This is MAGA country!” The problem, according to police, is that this attack did not happen.  Instead, Smollett has been charged with staging the attack and filing a false police report.

While there are some doubts about whether Smollett truly did stage the attack — and whether the police’s version of events are true — it raises an interesting question of when a person can be charged with filing a false police report.  In California, filing a false police report is a criminal offense.  According to an experienced criminal defense attorney Los Angeles, CA, it is a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to 6 months in county jail.

So what exactly is filing a false police report — and when can the crime be charged?  Under California law, a prosecutor can charge the crime whenever a person makes a false report of a misdemeanor or felony crime to a police or peace officer, prosecutor, grand jury, or state or local employee assigned to accept reports from citizens (such as a 911 operator).

Importantly, you can only be charged with filing a false police report if you know the report is false.  A skilled criminal defense attorney Los Angeles, CA can argue that you made the report in good faith, and later discovered that the report was false.  For example, if you believe that your vehicle was stolen, you could file a police report for a stolen vehicle.  If you later discover that your daughter came home from college unannounced and took your car on a road trip without your permission, and went to withdraw the police report, then you should not be charged with filing a false police report.  If you are, your criminal defense attorney Los Angeles, CA would have a strong argument that you did not believe the report was false at the time that you made it.

The crime of filing a false police report applies to both solicited and unsolicited information.  This means that it does not matter whether you go to the police on your own to make a report, or if the police come to you to ask you a question about a crime.  If you make a false report to the police, you are potentially liable for this crime.  For example, if you witness a fight between two people, and the police interview you as a witness, you could be charged with a crime if you lie about what you saw in the fight.

Although the Jussie Smollett case has made national news, most cases involving filing a false police report will not receive much attention from the media.  They are still incredibly important to those charged with this crime, however, and deserve a vigorous defense.

If you have been charged with a California criminal offense, the Chambers Law Firm is here for you.  Contact us today at 855-397-0210 or dchambers@clfca.com to schedule a free initial consultation with a seasoned criminal defense attorney Los Angeles, CA.

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