Under California Penal Code Section 118.1, the offense entails a situation where a peace officer acting in his official capacity writes and files a report in a criminal case that he knows contains a false statement concerning a material matter in the case.
Every peace officer who files any report with the agency which employs him or her regarding the commission of any crime or any investigation of any crime, if he or she knowingly and intentionally makes any statement regarding any material matter in the report which the officer knows to be false, whether or not the statement is certified or otherwise expressly reported as true, is guilty of filing a false report1.
This offense is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year, or in the state prison for one, two, or three years.
This section shall not apply to the contents of any statement which the peace officer attributes in the report to any other person.
- A law enforcement officer (i.e. peace or police officer) while acting in his/her official capacity;
- Filed a report in a criminal matter with the agency that employs him/her.
- The report contained a false statement(s) that was material.
- When he/she made the false statement(s) in the report, he/she knew the statement was false2.3
A police officer wrote and filed a report that stated that the defendant was found fleeing the crime scene with a deadly weapon. At the time the police officer wrote the report, he honestly believed that the defendant was grasping a gun while running away.
However, because it was dark, the police officer did not see that the defendant was in fact holding a baseball cap in his hands. In this case, the police officer could not be charged with the offense, because he did not know that the statement was false at the time he made the statement in the report.
A police officer wrote and filed a report that stated that the person whom he encountered at the crime scene told him that he saw the defendant break into and enter the victim’s house and commit a burglary. In reality, the person told the police officer that when he was passing by the crime scene, he only saw that the victim’s front door was slightly ajar and became concerned for her safety.
However, he did not see the defendant breaking into and entering the house. In this instance, because the police officer knowingly made the false statement, he could be charged with the offense.
If you are a peace/police officer who intentionally and knowingly made materially false statements in a police report that you then submitted to your agency to be on the record, you can be charged with this offense.
Importantly, the police officer can be charged with the offense whether or not the false statements were made under the penalty of perjury.
There are several legal defenses to a charge of issueing a false report. Here are the most common ones:
Because one of the elements is that the police officer knew that the statement he made was false, if he/she honestly but mistakenly believed the statement to be true, he/she could not be charged with the offense4.
Statement Was Made by Third Party:
To violate this code section, the false statement has to be made by the law enforcement official. However, if he/she merely takes down a false statement made by someone else, he/she could not be charged with the offense.
For example, a police officer interviews the victim’s neighbor who falsely tells the police officer that he saw the robber and that the robber is the victim’s cousin who lives two doors down. The police officer writes the statement in the report and files the report.
Unbeknownst to the police officer, the neighbor intentionally gave him false information because the victim’s cousin owns him a lot of money. Although the police officer wrote the false statement in the report, because the neighbor made the false statement, the police officer could not charged with the offense.
However the neighbor could be charged with Making a False Report of a Crime Under California Penal Code 148.5.
Statement Was Immaterial:
As stated above, for the officer to be charged with the offense, the false statement has to be material. However, if the statement would not influence the outcome of the proceedings, the officer could not charged with the offense. See the example above.
A charge of police officers issuing a false report can be either a misdemeanor or a felony offense depending on the circumstances and the defendant’s criminal history.
Misdemeanor Penalty For Penal Code 118 PC:
The judge can issue a sentence of imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year;
Felony Penalty For Penal Code 118 PC:
The judge can issue a sentence of imprisonment in the state prison for one, two, or three years.
The judge can also grant probation and impose a small amount or no jail time.
False Report Of A Crime
Penal Code 148.5 PC – California’s Falsely reporting a crime law is intended to criminalize civil abuse of a false report of a crime to a police officer6.
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- California Penal Code 118.1. PC [↩]
- Elements. Penal Code Section 118.1. [↩]
- Information is “material” if it is probable that the information would influence the outcome of the proceedings, but it does not need to actually have an influence on the proceedings. Knowledge of Materiality is not necessary. Penal Code Section 123. [↩]
- Good Faith Belief Statement True Negates Intent. People v. Von Tiedeman (1898) 120 Cal. 128, 134 [52 P. 155] [cited with approval in People v. Hagen (1998) 19 Cal.4th 652, 663–664 [80 Cal.Rptr.2d 24, 967 P.2d 563]]; People v. Louie (1984) 158 Cal.App.3d Supp. 28, 43 [205 Cal.Rptr. 247]. [↩]
- Penal Code 126 PC [↩]
- Penal Code 148.4 PC – False Report of a Criminal Matter [↩]
- Our police filing false report defense attorneys serve clients in the following areas Santa Clarita Valley, Antelope Valley, San Fernando Valley, San Gabriel Valley, Southern California, Los Angeles County, Santa Monica, Hollywood, Glendale, Sherman Oaks, Encino, Studio City, Burbank, Van Nuys, Chatsworth, San Fernando, Reseda, WoodlandHhills, Santa Clarita, Valencia, Palmdale, Lancaster, Pasadena, Alhambra, Malibu, Ventura County, Ventura, Oxnard, Anaheim, Santa Barbara County, Orange County, San Bernadino County [↩]