False Report to a Police Officer
Making a false report to a police officer is a crime under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 269 Section 13A. The prosecutor must prove each of the following four elements beyond a reasonable doubt to convict a defendant of this offense:
- The defendant made or caused to be made a report of a crime to a police officer.
- That report was false.
- The defendant intentionally made the false report to the police officer. This means that the report was not made through inadvertence, accident or negligence.
- The defendant knowingly made the false report to the police officer. This means that the defendant knew that the report was false.
Making a false report to a police officer is punishable by a fine of up to $500 or by imprisonment in a jail or house of correction for up to one year, or both.
If you are charged with either of these offenses or any other crime, you should immediately contact an experienced defense attorney like Stephen Neyman. Stephen Neyman has the expertise and talent to successfully defend your charge. Call the Law Offices of Stephen Neyman at 617-263-6800 or contact us online today.
Not until 2011 was there much case law on this statute. The charge was usually brought in connection with much more serious criminal charges or disposed of in a manner where the defendant would have very little if any exposure. That changed a couple of years ago in the case of Commonwealth v. Fortuna, 80 Mass.App.Ct. 45 (2011). In Fortuna the defendant, after being shot, was interviewed by the police. Believing that he had lied to them about the incident charges were brought. After a jury trial Fortuna was convicted. On appeal he argued that the charges never should have issued because the police initiated discussions with him. In other words, the defendant did not make a false report, rather after being solicited he told them a lie. The Massachusetts Appeals Court disagreed with this approach and held that it is the substance of what is said to the police, not who initiates the discussion that serves as the basis for the charge under the statute.
Similar to this law is the Massachusetts statute addressing obstruction of justice, G.L. c. 268 Section 13B. Prosecutions under both laws are being initiated with greater frequency these days. The purpose of these prosecutions is to deter interference with police investigations, particularly in crimes involving gun violence. These laws parallel federal statutes making it a crime to lie to federal agents. These laws are under great scrutiny right now and efforts to amend or repeal these laws have been discussed in several jurisdictions. Remember, the police can lie to you. For that there is no consequence. But if you lie to them watch out. You may get charged with a crime.
So what should you do if the police start questioning you? Unless you have a lawyer with you say nothing. Your silence cannot be used to charge you with a crime...but your words can.