What is it called when you lie to the police?
The legal name for lying to the police is “false reporting”. False reporting can take many forms, including:
- Lying to the police in response to a question
- Providing a false statement in a police report
- Lying to a 911 operator
- providing a false name to a police officer
Basically, if you lie to a police officer or any employee of a law enforcement agency, you can be charged with false reporting.
What does the law say about making a false report?
A.R.S. section 13-2907.1(A) covers making a false report to police. It reads as follows:
It is unlawful for a person to knowingly make to a law enforcement agency of either this state or a political subdivision of this state a false, fraudulent or unfounded report or statement or to knowingly misrepresent a fact for the purpose of interfering with the orderly operation of a law enforcement agency or misleading a peace officer.
This statute essentially has three elements:
- A person must make a statement they know is not true
- That statement must be made to a law enforcement agency in Arizona
- and the statement must be made for the purpose of interfering with the orderly operation of law enforcement, or to mislead a police officer.
In theory, all three of these elements must be present for a person to be charged with a false reporting violation. In practice, it can be a little more gray. Did the person “know” that they were making a false statement? Did the person make it for the specific intention of interfering with the orderly operation of law enforcement? These two elements are areas where a police officer and a civilian might reasonably disagree. Unfortunately, it is only the police officer’s opinion that matters at the time the charge is made. The person who is charged is then left to sort it out in court.
What happens if you lie to the police?
If a police officer realizes they have been lied to, they will likely charge you with false reporting. False reporting is a class 1 misdemeanor in Arizona. A class 1 misdemeanor is punishable with up to 6 months in jail, fines up to $2,500 (plus surcharges which will about double the fine), and up to 3 years of probation.
Defending against a false report charge
First, any charged with false reporting will want to see if all three elements of the charge are present. Did the person know what they were saying was false? Did the person make a false statement specifically for the purpose of misleading the police officer?
Even if all of the elements of the charge are present, there may be other defenses. For example, did the police officer fail to read the person his or her Miranda rights? If so, the false statement may be inadmissible.
What happens if the police lie to you?
Police can and will lie to you in order to set you up, to trick you into making an admission or confession, to coerce you into consenting to a search you can legally refuse, or for any number of other creepy reasons.
Silence is (almost) always an option!
As a general rule, you are never going to improve your outcome by talking to a police officer. When a police officer is asks questions, they are not doing so to be friendly. They are doing so to get information to support a charge against you. You are never going to change the mind of a police officer with a conversation on the side of the road. When you get stopped by the police while driving, you are only required to do a few things:
- Provide your driver license if you are driving. If you do not have a license, you must identify yourself.
- Provide proof of insurance and registration.
- If the police officer asks if you have any firearms in the car, you must answer. Truthfully.
- If there is any risk you could be charged with something serious, invoke your right to remain silent, and remain silent.
See also our Ten Tips for Your Next Traffic Stop and Basic Tips to Avoid a Cop Shattering Your Testicles During a Traffic Stop posts.