What is False Reporting to Law Enforcement Agencies in Arizona?
A.R.S. § 13-2907.01 makes it a crime for a person to lie to a police officer or to file a false police report. Keep in mind that you still have the right to remain silent–and if you are being investigated for a crime you should use it! But if you do make statements to the police, that are found to be false, then you can be charged under the false reporting statute.
This duty for honesty does not go both ways. There is nothing illegal about police officer’s lying to witnesses or suspects. In fact, they do it all the time! The police lie to criminal suspects all the time to encourage them to give away valuable incriminating information. But if you lie to them, you’ve committed a crime.
False reporting is a class 1 misdemeanor.
A.R.S. § 13-2901.01 Defined
Under ARS 13-2907.01, it is a crime for a person to do either of the following:
- Knowingly make to a law enforcement agency of either this state or a political subdivision of this state a false, fraudulent or unfounded report
- Knowingly make a 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.
Let’s break this definition down:
A law enforcement agency of Arizona or a political subdivision of Arizona means any law enforcement agency in Arizona. This can include:
- Statewide agencies: E.g., the Department of Public Safety (DPS)
- County agencies: E.g., the various county sheriff’s departments
- Local agencies: E.g., city police agencies, like the Phoenix PD or Scottsdale PD
“A false, fraudulent, or unfounded report” will typically involve making a false police report.
Example: A husband and wife get into a heated argument, but there is no violence. One spouse calls the police on the other to make a report of domestic abuse. By the time the police arrive, the spouse that called the police has calmed down and admits that the report was fabricated out of anger. The spouse hat made the false report can be charged under ARS 13-2907.01.
The second part of the law makes it a crime to lie to the police in order to interfere with “the orderly operation of a law enforcement agency” or to mislead a peace officer. Therefore, a criminal suspect can be charged with false reporting if they make a false statement when questioned by the police. A witness can also be charged with false reporting when they are giving the police a statement if it is found out that the witness knew their statement was false when they gave it to police.
Example: The police are investigating a car accident and are interviewing bystanders. One of the bystanders has a warrant out for his arrest and does not want to the police to know about, so when the police for his name he gives them a fake name. The bystander has just committed a violation of ARS 13-2907.01.
Penalties for False Reporting
False reporting under ARS 13-2907.01 is a class 1 misdemeanor. This is the highest level of misdemeanor in Arizona.
Penalties for a class 1 misdemeanor include:
- Up to 6 months in jail
- Up to $2500 in fines
Defenses to False Reporting to Law Enforcement
- Statement was truthful: The prosecutor cannot prove a case of false reporting if the statements that the defendant made to the police were true. It is the prosecutor’s burden to show that the statement was false beyond a reasonable doubt. A skilled defense attorney can plant doubt in the judge’s mind that the even if the statement may probably be false, there is a distinct possibility that the statement may have actually been true, or at least that the defendant thought it was true at the time the statement was made. If this is the case, the judge should dismiss the charges for lack of evidence.
- Violation of Miranda/Right to Counsel: If the police arrest a person for a crime so that they are not free to leave, they must provide the suspect with his Miranda warnings before beginning questioning. If the police do not properly read that person his Miranda rights, then the statements the suspect gives after the violation can be suppressed by a defense attorney filing a motion. If the person was charged for making a false statement to police during a custodial interrogation in violation of Miranda, those statements will be kicked out of court and all the evidence the state has against the person for false reporting will disappear.
How Salwin Law Group Can Help You
If you have been charged with false reporting to law enforcement, an experienced defense attorney can help defend you. We offer free consultation and can discuss your case with you today. Together we can help you get your life back.