When people see reports on the news or social media of a crime, they often go immediately to condemn the accused and defend the alleged victim. However, it may come out that the accused was totally innocent and the victim made up the whole story. Even after the truth comes out, the accused may be forced to have to defend themselves for a crime they never committed.
This is one reason it is important for defendants to have an understanding and experienced criminal defense lawyer on their side to make sure they are not punished for something they did not do.
False Reports Statute in Missouri
Under Missouri law, RSMo Section 575.080, it is an offense to make a false report, if the individual knowingly:
- Gives false information to any person for the purpose of implicating another person in an offense; or
- Makes a false report to a law enforcement officer that an offense has occurred or is about to occur; or
- Makes a false report or causes a false report to be made to a law enforcement officer, security officer, fire department or other organization, official or volunteer, which deals with emergencies involving danger to life or property that a fire or other incident calling for an emergency response has occurred or is about to occur.
Making a false report in Missouri is a Class B misdemeanor, with penalties including up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Why Would Someone File a False Police Report?
There are lots of reasons why someone might file a false report of a crime to police. It is often used as a way to punish someone. This could include getting back at an ex, former friend, or co-worker. Alternatively, reporting that someone else was involved in a crime may help take interest away from another suspect. A false report can also be an attempt to cover up fraud or an affair.
According to some in law enforcement, false police reports are common. Lieutenant Jon Brook, a police officer in Sikeston, Missouri, says the police take police reports seriously and will prosecute those who make false reports of a crime.
Made Up Carjacker
Police in Memphis responded to a report of a carjacking. Anthony Thomas claimed two men carjacked him when he was sitting inside his vehicle. A quick check on the vehicle showed police the vehicle had been towed several hours early. Upon questioning, the man reported that he made up the story to cover up an affair he was having so his wife would not find out.
Tampered Halloween Candy
Around this time of year, parents are often encouraged to check their children's trick-or-treat candy to make sure it is safe. After Halloween, there are often reports of tampering with candy, including needles inserted inside candy bars. However, there are a lot of fraudulent reports of parents reporting poisoning or candy tampering.
Last year, sheriff's officers in Clay County, Florida were investigating alleged false claims about a Kit-Kat with a needle in the middle. When the officers began investigating, they learned the reports were unfounded and they were pursuing criminal charges against the child's aunt who allegedly made the whole thing up.
Police Filing False Reports
The police themselves may also be implicated in filing false reports to cover up their own crimes. A group of police officers in Paterson, New Jersey were convicted of criminal charges in a police corruption case. The police were reportedly stopping motorists without a reason to steal money from drivers and vehicle occupants. Among the charges were filing a false police report for failing to mention the money taken from people the officers charged or ticketed.