What's the Punishment for a Filing a False Police Report?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on February 26, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Of the many things you should never say to a cop, a lie is near the top of the list -- especially if that lie is regarding a crime that was never committed. Filing a false police report can be a costly waste of time for law enforcement, not to mention a permanent stain on someone's reputation. And it might also land you in jail.

Almost every state makes false reporting of a crime its own criminal offense. And although the penalties can vary from state to state, they are all serious.

  • California: Making a false report of a crime -- reporting to any "peace officer ... the
    Attorney General, or a deputy attorney general, or a district attorney, or a deputy district attorney that a felony or misdemeanor has been committed, knowing the report to be false";
  • Florida: False reports of commission of crimes -- willfully giving a law enforcement officer "false information or reports concerning the alleged commission of any crime";
  • New York: Falsely reporting an incident in the third degree -- "Gratuitously [reporting] to a law enforcement officer or agency (a) the alleged occurrence of an offense or incident which did not in fact occur; or (b) an allegedly impending occurrence of an offense or incident which in fact is not about to occur; or (c) false information relating to an actual offense or incident or to the alleged implication of some person therein."
  • Although these definitions vary, each is misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.

    Swatting for S.W.A.T.

    A unique kind of false report, "swatting" refers to calling 911 to someone else's residence and reporting an ongoing crime like a hostage situation. These pranks can be especially expensive, since the police are required to treat every call as an emergency, and often send S.W.A.T. and other heavily armed officers to respond.

    Due to the rapid response and the number of officers involved, swatting can easily jump from a misdemeanor to a felony if someone is injured because of the false report or if you've been previously convicted of false reporting.

    If you've been charged with false reporting or falsely accused of a crime, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.

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