Making a false report of a crime in covered under California Penal Code Section 148.5. This law criminalizes the act of making a false report of a misdemeanor or felony crime to police, prosecutors, grand jury, or state employees who are assigned the duty to accept reports from the public, such as a 911 operator.
In basic terms, when you voluntarily give false information about an alleged crime, whether it's unsolicited or in reply to questions by police, it's considered a waste of law enforcement's time and resources. Additionally, you are accusing a potentially innocent individual of breaking the law.
It's important to stop and make note here that PC 148.5 only applies when you are reporting a false crime when you specifically know it's false. If you had a reasonable belief it was true at the time you were making a report, you can't be guilty of violating Penal Code 148.5.
This law also applies to situations when a third party makes an initial report of a crime, and you provide police with false witness statements. A common example of this in Los Angeles County includes a situation where you observe individuals you know selling drugs on the street.
A local resident also notices the drug activity and calls the police. Once the police arrive, they ask you for a witness statement. You intentionally tell police the wrong person to get them in trouble. In this situation, even though you did not make the initial call to the police, you can still face criminal charges of making a false report of a crime because you reported false information that you knew was not true.
Furthermore, there are a wide variety of common situations where one person will file a false report on another. The most common includes alleged domestic violence cases. One spouse will exaggerate, or simply make up the incident out of anger or revenge.
In these types of false domestic violence allegations, it's also not uncommon for one spouse to make a false report in order to gain an advantage in a child custody battle. Another common example in Los Angeles County of making a false report of a crime includes a situation where someone files a false report of a vehicle theft in order to collect the insurance money.
Los Angeles County prosecutors will have to be able to prove you “knowingly” made a false police report. In many cases, this can be challenging. If police believe you may have filed a false report of a crime, a detective will typically give you a call and will question the validity of your information.
Their questions will be designed to prove your allegations were false in order to build a criminal case against you. Therefore, if you have been accused of making a false report, you should politely decline to answer any questions from a police detective until you have consulted with an attorney. Instead, contact a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer at Eisner Gorin LLP.
Our attorneys will closely examine the details of your case and provide legal advice moving forward. Now that we have covered a basic overview of making a false report of a crime, let's take a closer look at the legal definition, penalties, and potential legal defenses below.
California Penal Code Section 148.5 – Making a False Report of a Crime
Under California Penal Code Section 148.5, a false report of a crime is legally defined as:
- (a) Every person who reports to any peace officer, police officer, attorney general, deputy attorney general, district attorney, or a deputy district attorney that a felony or misdemeanor offense has been committed, knowing the report to be false, is guilty of a misdemeanor.
Additionally, under California Penal Code Section 148.5(b), every person who reports to a peace officer that a felony or misdemeanor offense has been committed, knowing it to be false, is guilty of a misdemeanor if:
- (1) the false information is given while they are engaged in the performance of their duties, and;
- (2) the person giving the false information knows, or should have known, the person receiving the information is a peace officer.
Under California Penal Code Section 148.5(c), every person who reports to an employee assigned to accept reports, either directly or by telephone, and is employed by a state or local law enforcement agency, that a felony or misdemeanor offense has been committed, knowing the report to be false, is guilty of a misdemeanor if:
- (1) the false information is provided while they are engaged in the performance their duties as an employee, and;
- (2) the person giving the false information knows, or should have known, the person receiving the information is an agency employee.
There are some closely related offenses to making a false report of a crime. These include:
- California Penal Code Section 148.3 - falsely report an emergency,
- California Penal Code Section 148.1(c) - falsely report a bomb threat; and
- California Penal Code Section 148.6(a)(1) - falsely allege police misconduct.
Elements of the Crime
In order for the Los Angeles County prosecutor to obtain a conviction for making a false police report, in violation of California Penal Code Section 148.5, they must be able to prove, beyond any reasonable doubt, all the elements of the crime. The elements include:
- You filed a report with a police officer, district attorney, or attorney general;
- You knew the report to be false.
Again, specifically knowing the report was false is the key element to the criminal offense of making a false police report. If it can be shown you reasonably believed it was true when you made the report, even if your belief ends up being a mistake, you should not be guilty of making a false report. Contact a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney at our law firm for additional information.
If you are convicted of making a false report of a crime, in violation of California Penal Code Section 148.5, you are guilty of a misdemeanor crime. The legal penalties include up to 6 months in a Los Angeles County jail.
The court may also impose probation, community service hours, counseling classes, restitution and fines. However, in many cases, the court will grant probation with no jail time. The factors the judge will consider in determining the legal penalties include your criminal history, any consequences from the false report, and your motive for filing the false report.
Additionally, California Vehicle Code 10501 is a separate criminal offense to file a false or fraudulent report of vehicle theft. If convicted of a false car theft report, it's a misdemeanor crime. However, if you have a prior offense, this offense is a “wobbler,” and a potential felony offense with more substantial legal penalties.
A Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer from our law firm may use a variety of legal defenses on your behalf. Every case has its own set of unique facts and circumstances that will need to be reviewed before determining an effective strategy. Some of the potential legal defenses include:
You didn't know the report was false – At the time you made the report of a crime, our criminal lawyers may be able to argue you had a reasonable belief the report was accurate, or had no reason to believe the information was not correct. If successful, you should not be convicted of filing a false report of a crime.
You were coerced to file a false report. – In some cases, our attorneys may be able to argue you were threatened or coerced in to making a false report of a crime. This could occur in situations where you might have been forced to falsely report a vehicle theft to collect insurance. If our lawyers can show coercion was involved, you may able to avoid a conviction.
Your report provided true information – In some cases, our lawyers may be able to argue the information you provided in the report was actually true. There are cases where the police will exaggerate the circumstances against you. If we are successful in showing the information you provided was accurate, you will not be convicted of of filing a false report of a crime.
Contact a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been accused of filing a false report of a crime, you need to consult with a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer at Eisner Gorin LLP. Our law firm has a track record of success and will fight aggressively on your behalf.
We need to first take a close look at all the case details to start preparing a solid defense plan. We offer a free immediate response. Call our lawyers at 877-781-1570.
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