Personal Injury Lawyer
There will be times when you are required to speak with the police, whether as a witness to a crime, when you need to file a report, or report a crime. When reporting a crime, it is important to ensure that what you are reporting is true. Many people who are asked to give their witness statements would do so in good faith, with the honest intention of helping. But if those statements given later prove to be false, such as the color of shirt the suspect was wearing, would there have been a crime committed? No, if you had no intention to gain from the inaccuracy and gave the information to the best of your knowledge, then no crime has been committed
You may be asking why is it important to ensure that you have reasonable suspicion to believe that a crime was committed or about to be committed when reporting a crime? It is important because intentionally filing a false police report or complaint can be charged as a Class B misdemeanor in Texas. Now you may be asking, isn’t this protected under the first amendment freedom of speech? The answer to that is No! It is in fact considered to be a crime against justice. Another question that may arise is what happens if you do intentionally file a false report?
ELEMENTS OF THE CRIME
Before we delve into what may happen if a false police report was filed, let us discuss what the elements of filing a false report are. Under Texas law, “a person commits an offense if, with intent to deceive, he knowingly makes a false statement that is material to a criminal investigation and makes the statement to:
- A peace officer or federal special investigator conducting the investigation
- Any employee of a law enforcement agency that is authorized by the agency to conduct the investigation and that the actor knows is conducting the investigation; or
- A corrections officer or jailor.
Depending on the jurisdiction that this crime occurred in, the prosecution may also be required to prove that the defendant made the false statement with the intent to interfere with the criminal justice system. For example, if a gang files a false report about a crime the rival gang committed in an effort to take the police off their trail for a while.
CHARGES AND PENALTIES
In Texas, filing a false complaint or report is classified as a Class B misdemeanor. In Texas, this means that this crime is punishable with up to 180 days in jail and fines up to $2000. False reports may also be linked to other criminal activities such as obstruction of justice or even insurance fraud. False reports of things such as terrorism, like a bomb threat, could be considered a felony.
WHAT CONSTITUTES AS A FALSE REPORT?
Examples of false reports include, but are not limited to:
- Overstating the amount stolen in a robbery
- Claiming the neighbor stole something of yours, when in fact you allowed them to borrow it
- Creating allegations of domestic violence to attain sole custody of the child
- Saying someone was texting and driving at the time of the accident, even if you did not see it for yourself.
- Exaggerating the severity of the crime
On top of facing criminal charges, a person who files a false report or makes a false claim is also liable to face civil liabilities such as defamation of character or intentional infliction of emotional distress or other damages resulting from the false report or claim. The court may have the defendant pay attorney fees for the person accused of committing the crime.