Lying on a police report is a serious crime punishable by state and possibly federal law. When someone knowingly makes an incorrect statement to a police officer --- whether she gives a false name or fabricates an entire crime --- she is considered to have filed a false report. Any incorrect information can jeopardise an entire criminal investigation. Consequences for lying vary depending on both the severity of the situation and local penal code.
Misdemeanour vs. Felony
Lying on a police report is considered a misdemeanour or felony, depending on the type of crime reported. If you lied about a misdemeanour, a non-capital felony -- such as insurance fraud -- or missing person, for instance, the crime is a misdemeanour, according to Miami attorney firm Hassett & Associates. Most cases fall into this category. However, if you filed a report about a capital felony -- such as attempted murder -- you may be personally charged with a felony.
Fines, Jail Time or Both
In most cases, reporting false information to law enforcement will result in a fine, time in a county jail or both. The amount of fine or jail time varies by state. Lying to the police in Alabama, for instance, means up to one year in jail and £1,300 in fines. In Colorado, jail time maxes out at six months and the fine at £487. In New Jersey, the maximum penalty jumps to 18 months in jail and a fine of £6,500.
In some cases, the law-enforcement department that filed your police report may request restitution. In other words, you'll be required to pay for the time officers spent working on your report as well as dealing with the fallout from the incorrect information. Though legal, restitution requests are not very common.
Occasionally, courts will allow someone suspected of falsifying information to settle for a lesser sentence. In 2006, a police department in Warner Robins, Ga., struck a deal with a man convicted of lying on a police report. Rather than go to trial, the man was directed to walk up and down a busy street in front of the local courthouse wearing a sign that read, "I am a liar." Such individualised punishments, which vary by police department and case details, are relatively common.
As with any crime, lying on a police report as an adult will stay on your record for the rest of your life. Your criminal record could negatively affect the outcome every time you apply for a job, credit card or loan.