When you’re victimized by crime, you have the right to call the police and file a report. As the complaining witness, you will be taken seriously when you make these phone calls. Police officers will hear you out, write down what you have to say and refer your case to the district attorney’s office in most instances. Trust in victims is one of the bedrocks of the criminal justice system, and when victims speak, individuals are often arrested and charged. This is why filing a false police deport is such a big deal. When lives are potentially ruined through a false report, the consequences for doing such can be quite serious. So what happens when you file a false police report?
Police response and a wrongful arrest
Your false police report is highly likely to lead to the arrest of the person you are filing the report against. Arrests are made on the basis of probable cause. If the officer has cause to believe that a crime probably took place, then he or she can make an arrest. Often, the word of the victim is enough to generate that sort of probable case. Likewise, it will usually lead to criminal charges being brought by the district attorney. Unless there is an immediate reason not to believe you, these parties will often use your word as the basis for beginning a criminal case against some person.
Discovering that you filed a false police report
Over time, the district attorney’s office will conduct an investigation. The criminal defense lawyer representing the person you have accused will also conduct their own due diligence. This will often lead to these parties figuring out that you lied to the police about what happened. While this may not come to light right away, one or both of these parties will usually get to the bottom of what has happened. They will then drop the charges against the wrongfully accused person and turn their sights toward you.
Criminal liability of filing a false report
Perhaps your most pressing concern should be potential criminal charges as a result of your false report filing. In many states, filing a false police report is a specific crime under the penal code. Even in those places where this is not enumerated, you can be charged with interference with official duties, obstruction or justice or lying on an official document. The police and prosecutors will have many options if they want to hold you accountable for your false report.
Potential civil liability for false reporting
You may also have to worry about potential civil penalties if you happen to file a false report. Filing a false report can lead to the arrest of the person who was accused, and this can cause him to lose his job, his reputation or some of his social standing. In many instances, you can face a lawsuit because of your actions. This is especially true if you knowingly filed the false report. The person you put in jail may be able to recover damages against you because of the false reporting.