What Is Filing a False Police Report?

Written by aaron gifford
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What Is Filing a False Police Report?
It's illegal to falsely report an incident to police. (policeman on the mass-meeting image by Alexey Klementiev from Fotolia.com)

It is illegal to file a false police report or falsely report an incident that warrants a police response. This is a particularly heinous crime if the victim is someone who is accused of rape or abusing children. In many cases, the would-be complainant is trying to get an adversary in trouble, though filing a false report is also a diversion technique to cover up his/her own crime. Police officers are responsible for checking out the validity of each complaint and prosecuting those who cry wolf.

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The Report

It is one thing to call 999 or 911 with a false emergency or complaint; it is another to personally visit the police station and provide a formal, documented complaint. In an incident report, the officer notes the nature of the alleged complaint, the time and date it allegedly took place and is reported. The alleged suspect is also noted in that report. In some cases, the complainant is required to sign a statement that could be used against him/her if he/she is lying.

Police Action

Depending on the crime, officers may interview the suspect before that person is ticketed or arrested, though in a violent crime like rape an arrest could happen quickly. Officers may be able to determine quickly if the complaint is bogus. For example, if someone complains that an acquaintance harassed him/her over the phone, the complainant would need to provide proof of the alleged caller's number on his/her phone or in phone bill records. If the accused, however, shows phone records noting he/she was talking to someone else at the time of the alleged incidents or an alibi backed up from others who can say the person was not even on the phone, officers can then pursue a case against the complainant.

What's at Stake

Taxpayers pay police to protect their community. If an officer is dealing with a false accusation, that is one less officer patrolling for real criminal activity. Police officers also put their life at risk while driving quickly to an emergency call. The victim's name may appear in a police report, which can be especially damaging if the person is accused of a sex crime. The initial complaint could be reported in the newspaper with no guarantee that readers will see the next report noting that the alleged suspect was falsely accused, and that the suspect's accuser was subsequently charged. The victim may also unfairly incur legal defence expenses.

Recourse

The victim may decide to press charges against the person who filed the false police report. He also has the ability to sue for slander, though it would be nearly impossible to name the involved prosecutor in the suit, according to attorney Jonna Spilbor, who discusses falsely reporting a rape on the FindLaw website. "Government immunity," she writes, "will most likely shield it from liability."

Penalties

Filing a false police report is a misdemeanour in most US states, meaning conviction of that crime is punishable by up to one year in jail and a £650 fine. The severity of the incident and the defendant's criminal history would be considered during his/her sentencing.

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