A police report is a document that contains all relevant information regarding an offense or an incident that has happened. More importantly, it provides persuasive evidence that the prosecution or the defense team can use during a criminal trial. Its relevance is not limited to criminal proceedings, as it can also be used during civil trials. As such, it is trite law that a police report should be based on factual information only.
That said, filing a false police report is an offense that is prosecuted aggressively in Florida. Strictly speaking, filing a false report not only impeaches the credibility of the document as a whole but may also hinder the proper administration of criminal justice. Therefore the penalties imposed on the offender upon successful conviction can be stringent and have serious consequences.
For this reason, if you or your loved one is facing a charge in relation to filing a false police report, you need to hire a criminal defense attorney at the Meltzer & Bell law firm immediately.
Here is what you need to know about the punishment for filing a police report in Florida, the potential penalties you are likely to face upon conviction, and how a criminal defense attorney can help you.
What constitutes filing a false police report in Florida?
Florida’s criminal statute deals with a false report in two ways. First, Florida statute 817.49 provides for the offense of filing a false police report, while Florida statute 837.05 provides for the offense of false information concerning the commission of a crime. Although these two charges are distinct, you may face both charges simultaneously.
Having said that, the crime of filing a false police report as provided under Florida statute 817.49 denotes making a report to law enforcement that is known to be false. Legally speaking, the prosecution can only sustain the charge if the defendant knowingly made a false report. In other words, the defendant’s knowledge is at the core of the charge.
Furthermore, the defendant can be held criminally liable for making a false report to a law enforcement officer. In such a case, the law enforcement officer contemplated under Florida Statute 817.49 includes:
- Police officers
- District attorneys
- Grand juries
- Peace officers
- 911 operators and other law enforcement officers who take reports from citizens
That said, the charges will be prosecuted aggressively, and you may end up facing severe consequences associated with the charge. For this reason, it would be best to have a criminal defense attorney at your side.
What are the Potential Penalties for filing a false police report in Florida?
Typically the charge of filing a false police report is classified as a misdemeanor of the 1st degree. In Florida, if you are convicted of the offense, you will likely face a maximum of up to one year in jail and a $ 1,000.000 fine.
In addition to the criminal sanctions imposed on offenders, you will likely face charges such as perjury, fraud, or obstruction of justice. More worryingly, you may also face civil claims such as defamation. Noteworthy is that the charges arise because a false report is a type of speech not protected by the First Amendment. This leaves room for additional penalties to be imposed on the offender.
Can a Civil Claim arise after a ‘filing a false police report’ charge in Florida?
The answer is in the affirmative. A civil lawsuit can arise if you falsely implicated someone in a criminal offense by filing a false police report. In other words, a person alleged to have committed a crime can sue the person who filed the false report.
Typically a civil suit will be made for defamation or intentional infliction of emotional distress. A verdict against you in a civil lawsuit may mean many things, including a settlement against the defendant.
That said, to avoid criminal and civil penalties, you need legal help from a criminal defense attorney. Essentially an attorney will build a robust defense in the criminal proceedings to prevent a subsequent civil lawsuit from arising.
What does the prosecution need to prove that a false police report was filed?
To sustain the charge, the prosecution will need to prove the core elements of the charge that are contemplated under section 817.49 of the applicable Florida statute. Put simply, the prosecution will need to prove to the jury the existence of the following four elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The defendant willfully provided false information or a report about the alleged commission of a crime to a law enforcement officer.
- The defendant knew that the report filed was false.
- A law enforcement officer received the false report that was filed.
- The defendant knew the law enforcement officer was actually a law enforcement officer.
Legally speaking, these elements must be proved beyond reasonable doubt for the case against the defendant to succeed.
What are the potential defenses to the charge in Florida?
If you are charged with filing a false police report in Florida, you will not obviously be convicted without defending yourself. Typically there are three common defenses to the charge.
One of the possible defenses to the charge is demonstrating to the court that you genuinely believe the report was not false. You can sustain this defense by providing that you lack knowledge or filed the report under a mistaken belief.
On the other hand, you can defend yourself by showing that you are being accused falsely. A person can be charged with making a false report in order to prosecute them maliciously. To succeed in this, you may need to prove that the person making the accusation has ulterior motives. Often this can be difficult, and it would be best to have a criminal defense attorney help you.
Finally, it would be a defense to show that the report was not made to a law enforcement officer. The statute governing the offense requires the false report to be filed to a law enforcement officer for a person to be charged with the crime. Therefore, showing that the recipient of the report is not a law enforcement officer is a robust defense.
Need help? Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or your loved one is facing charges relating to filing a false police report in Florida, you risk facing severe consequences in your life. In addition to the criminal sanctions that may be imposed upon conviction, you may have a ruined record that may hinder you from accessing opportunities in the future.
What’smore, a successful conviction may lead to additional charges. For this reason, you need a competent and qualified criminal defense attorney to help you.
At the Meltzer & Bell law firm, we have experience handling criminal cases in Florida and will work hard to ensure that your charges are reduced or dropped altogether. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.