Police Officers Filing False Reports

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Definition of A Police Officer Filing a False Report

Every peace officer who files any report with the agency which employs him or her regarding the commission of any crime or any investigation of any crime, if he or she knowingly and intentionally makes any statement regarding any material matter in the report which the officer knows tobe false, whether or not the statement is certified or otherwise expressly reported as true, is guilty of filing a false report punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year, orin the state prison for one, two, or three years. This section shall not apply to the contents of any statement which the peace officer attributes in the report to any other person.

Under California Penal Code Section 118.1, the offense entails a situation where a peace officer acting in his official capacity writes and files a report in a criminal case that he knows contains a false statement concerning a material matter in the case.

How Does the Prosecutor Prove a False Report Has Been Issued?

To prove that a false report has been issued by a police officer, the prosecutor has to prove the following facts or elements:

  • A law enforcement officer (i.e. peace or police officer) while acting in his/her official capacity;
  • Filed a report in a criminal matter with the agency that employs him/her.
  • The report contained a false statement(s) that was material.
  • When he/she made the false statement(s) in the report, he/she knew the statement was false1.2

An example of “immaterial” is as follows: a police officer wrote and filed a report in which he falsely stated that as soon as he got word about the robbery, he came straight away from the local police station.  In reality, he was coming from the local donut shop.  Because it took the police officer the same amount of time to get to the crime scene and because the false statement had no impact on the outcome of the proceeding, he could not be charged with the offense.

Example of False Statement not In Violation

A police officer wrote and filed a report that stated that the defendant was found fleeing the crime scene with a deadly weapon.  At the time the police officer wrote the report, he honestly believed that the defendant was grasping a gun while running away.  However, because it was dark, the police officer did not see that the defendant was in fact holding a baseball cap in his hands.  In this case, the police officer could not be charged with the offense, because he did not know that the statement was false at the time he made the statement in the report.

Example of False Statement In Violation

A police officer wrote and filed a report that stated that the person whom he encountered at the crime scene told him that he saw the Defendant break into and enter the victim’s house and commit a burglary.  In reality, the person told the police officer that when he was passing by the crime scene, he only saw that the victim’s front door was slightly ajar and became concerned for her safety.  However, he did not see the Defendant breaking into and entering the house.  In this instance, because the police officer knowingly made the false statement, he could be charged with the offense.

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Who Can Be Charged With Issuing A False Report?

If you are a peace/police officer who intentionally and knowingly made materially false statements in a police report that you then submitted to your agency to be on the record, you can be charged with this offense.  Importantly, the police officer can be charged with the offense whether or not the false statements were made under the penalty of perjury.

How Can I Fight A Charge Of Issuing A False Report?

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There are several legal defenses to a charge of issueing a false report.  Here are the most common ones:

  •  Honest Mistake: Because one of the elements is that the police officer knew that the statement he made was false, if he/she honestly but mistakenly believed the statement to be true, he/she could not be charged with the offense.  3
  • Statement Was Made by Third Party: To violate this code section, the false statement has to be made by the law enforcement official.  However, if he/she merely takes down a false statement made by someone else, he/she could not be charged with the offense.

For example, a police officer interviews the victim’s neighbor who falsely tells the police officer that he saw the robber and that the robber is the victim’s cousin who lives two doors down.  The police officer writes the statement in the report and files the report.  Unbeknownst to the police officer, the neighbor intentionally gave him false information because the victim’s cousin owns him a lot of money.  Although the police officer wrote the false statement in the report, because the neighbor made the false statement, the police officer could not charged with the offense.  However the neighbor could be charged with Making a False Report of a Crime Under California Penal Code 148.5.

  • Statement Was Immaterial: As stated above, for the officer to be charged with the offense, the false statement has to be material.  However, if the statement would not influence the outcome of the proceedings, the officer could not charged with the offense.  See the example above.

What Are The Penalties & Punishment For Penal Code 118.1?

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A charge of police officers issuing a false report can be either a misdemeanor or a felony offense depending on the circumstances and the defendant’s criminal history.

Misdemeanor: The judge can issue a sentence of imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year;

Felony:  The judge can issue a sentence of imprisonment in the state prison for one, two, or three years.

How We Can Help

If You have been charged with filing a police report or you feel a police officer filed a police report in your case contact the Aizman Law firm for a free consultation about your case 818-351-9555.

Get Legal Help

Request A Free Consultation 818-351-9555 

Footnotes

  1. Elements. Penal Code Section 118.1. []
  2. Information is “material” if it is probable that the information would influence the outcome of the proceedings, but it does not need to actually have an influence on the proceedings.  Knowledge of Materiality is not necessary.  Penal Code Section 123. []
  3. Good Faith Belief Statement True Negates Intent. People v. Von Tiedeman (1898) 120 Cal. 128, 134 [52 P. 155] [cited with approval in People v. Hagen (1998) 19 Cal.4th 652, 663–664 [80 Cal.Rptr.2d 24, 967 P.2d 563]]; People v. Louie (1984) 158 Cal.App.3d Supp. 28, 43 [205 Cal.Rptr. 247]. []