Filing a False Police Report

Filing a false police report is a crime under federal and state laws. However, the elements necessary to prove this crime and the severity of it vary by jurisdiction.


Filing a false police report usually involves intentionally making a statement that the reporter knows is false with the intent to disrupt or cause a criminal investigation. This statement cannot be made to another citizen but must be made to a peace officer or law enforcement officer. Additionally, the statement must usually be material to a criminal investigation. In some jurisdictions, the offense is only a crime If it was made in order to deceive, hinder or obstruct the officer from being able to prevent the crime in question or apprehend a person who has committed the crime.

Criminal Punishment

Depending on the jurisdiction
where the offense is committed, the crime may be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony. A misdemeanor offense usually carries a maximum jail term of one year while felonies can result in extended periods of imprisonment. There may be certain types of filing false police report classifications that make the offense more serious, such as filing a report of terrorism or filing a report that results in someone’s wrongful arrest. In some cases, criminal defendants have been ordered to repay the community if law enforcement invested time and resources to assist in the investigation of a crime that never occurred.

Additionally, other criminal charges may accrue based on the circumstances of the case. For example, if a person filed a police report to report that property was stolen to collect on insurance funds, a charge of insurance fraud or theft by deception may arise. Likewise, obstruction of justice charges can arise if the lies impeded the investigation. If the criminal defendant continued the lies in court, charges of perjury may arise.

Civil Liability

In addition to potential criminal punishment, filing a false police report can result in civil liability. In some jurisdictions, a case of defamation per se arises if a person makes a false statement that another has committed an infamous crime. In other jurisdictions, civil liability may lie if the false statement causes damage to the individual’s reputation. For example, a person may lose his or her job after being arrested for a crime that he or she did not commit.


Because the mens rea of this crime usually involves the terms “knowing” or “intent,” the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual charged with this offense had such knowledge or intent. If the individual made a statement in good faith that he or she believed was true but it was later determined to be incorrect, he or she should not be found guilty of the offense. Likewise, if the criminal defendant did not have the requisite intent as laid out in the criminal statute, he or she should not be found guilty.

Follow Up

If a person discovers that someone else filed a false police report against him or her, the individual can usually ask to make a supplement to the report that will be stored alongside the original report. If an investigator was assigned to the case, both reports would likely be available to the investigator. Additionally, an individual may consider talking to a lawyer about other forms of recourse against the person who made the person.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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