What if I File a False Police Report?
If you sustained injuries in any kind of accident and believe that someone else is legally liable, anger is a natural response. However, sometimes anger makes people react irrationally, such as by embellishing the events of an accidents or falsifying the information in a police report. This can have serious legal consequences. Filing a false police report not only undermines the veracity of your claim and endangers your right to compensation; it’s also a criminal offense. Here’s what you should know about filing false police reports and the associated punishments under California law.
What Does It Mean to File a False Police Report?
You might be guilty of filing a false police report if you provide erroneous or misleading information in a statement to a responding officer to an accident. You can falsify a police report by making up an incident entirely, or by embellishing details of a true event.
Generally, two different types of falsification exist:
Intentional falsifications occur when you file a police report with inaccurate details or fabricate an entire story itself. The latter most often occurs with allegations of domestic abuse, especially in light of a pending custody battle. However, several other matters of intentional falsification exist, including:
- Exaggerating the amount of goods a robber stole from your house
- Exaggerating the extent of your injuries following an accident
- Stating that you saw someone drinking from an alcoholic beverage container before an accident occurred, when you did not.
Most falsifications, on the other hand, are unintentional. An unintentional falsification of information occurs when someone accidentally gives wrong information to a police officer. A common example might be an eyewitness inaccurately stating the speed of a driver. Victims of car accidents may also misrepresent facts of a car accident because of the stress involved. These errors are simply that – mistakes – and do not open a person to prosecution for filing a false police report.
Punishments for Filing a False Police Report
California sets certain penalties for filing a false police report. Under the California Penal Code Section 148.5 PC, it is a misdemeanor offense to make a false report of a crime to any peace officer or legal authority. As such, you could face up to six months in a county jail.
However, the actual punishment for falsifying a police report will depend on a variety of factors. Some of the most relevant include:
- Your prior criminal history
- Your motive for creating a false report (e.g., to file an insurance claim)
- The ultimate consequences for the victim (for example, if someone else endured a wrongful arrest)
In some cases, a judge may only impose probation, while other offenses will require jail time. It will depend on the judge and the severity of the consequences involved.
Talking to the Police After an Orange County Car Accident
If you were involved in an accident, you might be overwhelmed in the stress of the moment. It’s natural to feel anger or other negative emotions toward a person you believe to be legally responsible. However, this does not serve as an excuse for lying or providing knowingly false information to a responding officer.
When speaking to an officer at the scene, stay as calm and rational as possible. Take a moment to compose yourself and prepare, if you need to. Relay the details of the accident and be thorough, but stick to the truth. Never editorialize your statements or provide information you don’t believe is accurate. The risks of falsifying a police report are too great – not only could you lose your right to compensation, you could end up in jail. If you have questions after a car accident in Southern California, contact our Orange County car accident lawyers.