Definition of False Report of a Crime
The definition of False Report of a Crime, or ‘False Police Report,’ is contained in Section 817.49, Washington DC Statutes. Under the law, it is a criminal offense for a person to willfully and knowingly give false information or make a false report regarding the commission of a crime that the person knows did not actually occur.
False Report of the Commission of a Crime is distinguished from the offense of Giving False Information to Police in that, under Section 817.49, a person reports a crime that they know did not actually take place.
Required Proof at Trial
To prove the offense of False Report at trial, the prosecution must establish the following four elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The accused willfully gave or said (or caused to be given or said) false information or a false report about the commission of an alleged crime in Washington DC;
- The accused knew the information or report was false because no such crime had actually been committed;
- The information or report was given or said (or caused to given or said) to a law enforcement officer; and
- The accused knew or should have known that the person to whom the information or report was given was a law enforcement / police officer.
Penalties for False Report
False Police Report / False Report of a Crime is classified as a first degree misdemeanor. As such, the offense carries penalties of up to 1 year in jail or 12 months of probation, and a $1,000.00 fine.
Defenses to False Police Report
There are many defenses available under Washington DC law to contest a charge of False Police Report. The most common defenses are factual or evidentiary in nature.
Report Not Provably False
Often, law enforcement, in investigating an incident, will jump to conclusions and take one person’s side over another. In their haste to arrest someone, they may pursue charges against the person they choose not to believe. Where there is contrary evidence supporting a defendant’s side of the story, this may put into contention whether the report was in fact false.
Mistaken Belief / Misinformation
Even if the report turns out to be false, the prosecution must establish that the accused knew that the information contained in the report was false. Where the accused was simply mistaken, given misinformation by someone else, or misconstrued the situation, this will provide a powerful defense.
No Knowledge of Police
Even if the information is false, and even if the accused knew it was false, the information or report must be given or made to a law enforcement officer, not a bystander or other person. Thus there often defenses where the accused did not know the person was a police officer, or did not intend the information they gave to reach the hands of officers.
Contact an Attorney
False Police Report / False report of a Crime can be a highly defendable charge, and no person should accept a plea in their case without first consulting with an attorney.
If you have been accused of making a false police report, contact attorneys at Cohen, Bradshaw, Rothstein and Klein for a free consultation. Attorney Attorneys at Cohen, Bradshaw, Rothstein and Klein handles cases throughout the State of Washington DC.