Definition of Giving False Information
Under Section 837.05, Washington DC Statutes, it is a criminal offense for a person to knowingly give to a law enforcement or police officer false information regarding the commission of a crime.
This offense is commonly confused with False Report of a Crime, which applies where the reported crime did not actually occur. In a prosecution for Giving False Information (‘lying to police’), a crime actually occurs, but the accused knowingly gives false information concerning the incident.
To prove the offense of Giving False Information, the prosecution must establish the following five elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The accused knowingly gave information about the alleged commission of a crime;
- The accused knew the information was false;
- The accused gave the false information to a person;
- The person to whom the information was given was a law enforcement officer;
- The accused knew that the person was a law enforcement officer.
Penalties for Giving False Information
In Washington DC, Giving False Information to Law Enforcement under Section 837.05 may carry misdemeanor or felony penalties, depending on the number of prior convictions and the subject matter of the information.
- First Offense (Information Concerning Non-capital Felony)- where the information communicated does not concern a capital felony, a first offense for False Information is a first degree misdemeanor, with penalties of up to 1 year in jail or 12 months of probation, and a $1,000 fine.
- Second Offense– a second offense for False Information is classified as a third degree felony, with penalties of up to 5 years in prison or 5 years of probation, and a $5,000 fine;
- False Information Concerning a Capital Felony– classified as a third degree felony, with penalties of up to 5 years in prison or 5 years of probation, and a $5,000 fine.
Defenses to the Charge
There are many defenses available to contest a charge of Giving False Information Concerning a Crime, or ‘lying to police.’ For this reason, no person should attempt to resolve their case without first consulting with an attorney.
Information Not Provably False
First and foremost, the prosecution must prove that the information was in fact “false.” This is often difficult to do where the facts are not clearly established with regard to the underlying incident.
For example, if the charge is based on accused’s rendition of an event, such as a fight, genuine questions may exist as to what actually happened. If this is the case, proving falsity beyond a reasonable doubt will be difficult, if not impossible for the prosecution.
No Provable Knowledge of Falsity
Moreover, the prosecution must establish the accused’s knowledge of the falsity of the information. This can sometimes be difficult if the accused gave information that he or she thought was the truth or thought was reliable. If the accused can demonstrate a basis for his or her beliefs, then knowledge of falsity will be difficult to prove.
Even if the accused was careless or reckless in making a statement or assertion, this does not amount to “knowledge” of the falsity of the information.
Contact an Attorney
If you have been accused of giving false information to law enforcement concerning the commission of a crime, or “lying” to police, 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.