Definition of False Report of a Crime
The definition of “False Police Report” or False Report of a Crime is contained in Chapter 817 of the Florida Statutes. Under Section 817.49, it is a criminal offense for a person to willfully and knowingly give false information or make a false report regarding the commission of an alleged crime where the alleged crime did not actually occur. False Report of a Crime is distinguished from the offense of Giving False Information Concerning the Commission of a Crime in that, under Section 817.49, no crime actually takes place.
To prove the offense of False Report at trial, the prosecution must establish the following four elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The accused willfully gave or said (or caused to be given or said) false information or a false report about the commission of an alleged crime in Florida;
- The accused knew the information or report was false because no such crime had actually been committed;
- The information or report was given or said (or caused to given or said) to a law enforcement officer; and
- The accused knew or should have known that the person to whom the information or report was given was a law enforcement / police officer.
Penalties for False Report
Under Florida Statutes, Chapter 817, False Police Report or False Report of a Crime is a first degree misdemeanor. As such, the offense carries penalties of up to 1 year in jail or 12 months of probation, and a $1,000.00 fine.
Defenses to False Report
There are many defenses available under Florida law to contest a charge of False Report or False Report of a Crime. Often, law enforcement, in investigating an incident, will jump to conclusions and take one person’s side over another. In their haste to arrest someone, they may pursue charges against the person they chose not to believe. Where there is contrary evidence supporting a person’s side of the story, this may put into contention whether the report was in fact false.
Even if the report turns out to be false, the prosecution must establish that the accused knew that the information contained in the report was false. Where the accused was simply mistaken, given misinformation by someone else, or misconstrued the situation, this will provide a powerful defense.
Moreover, even if the information is false, and even if the accused knew it was false, the information or report must be given or made to a law enforcement officer, not a bystander or other person. Thus there often defenses where the accused did not know the person was a police officer, or did not intend the information they gave to reach the hands of officers.
If you have been accused of making a false police report, or false report to law enforcement regarding the commission of a crime, contact Hussein & Webber, PL to discuss your legal options. All consultations with our Jacksonville Criminal Attorney are free and confidential.