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Giving False Information to a Police Officer

young couple talking to the police after a roadside traffic violation and collision

Is Lying to the Police Illegal?

People often believe that lying to the police is illegal, but that is simply not the case in all circumstances. Lying to the police can be illegal in certain instances, but if you didn’t do so intentionally, then you may avoid criminal charges.

For instance, if you witnessed a crime and an officer questions you about it, you shouldn’t get in trouble for unintentionally giving the wrong information. If they asked you what the suspect was wearing and your answer doesn’t exactly line up with what other witnesses reported, you should be okay.

On the other hand, if you witnessed your friend committing a crime like shoplifting or trespassing and the police question you as a witness, knowingly giving false information will most likely get you in legal trouble. If you tell the officers that your friend was heavily intoxicated and “didn’t know what they were doing” to help protect them from arrest, you may end up getting arrested yourself if officers learn that your friend was, in fact, sober and fully aware of their actions.

There is a fine line between giving false statements and making a mistake. Although you are not required to speak to the police in most circumstances, your words hold a heavy weight when they’re spoken. As such, speak with caution, even if you are not under arrest and only offering information about a crime.

What Is the Punishment for Filing a False Police Report?

In South Carolina, it is illegal to knowingly file a false police report. If you falsely report a felony, you will be charged with a felony and punished with up to 5 years in prison and/or $1,000 fines if convicted. Accordingly, if you falsely reported a misdemeanor, you would get a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or $500 fines. In addition, you may be required to pay restitution to the investigating agency to help cover their expenses of investigating the false report.

A person may file a false police report if a person cuts them off on the highway. Out of anger, the person could call the police to report a DUI, when in reality, the person who cut you off was just being rude, not committing a crime. Another example of when a person might file a false police report is if they found out their significant other cheated on them. Out of revenge, this person may falsely report domestic violence to the police to “get back” at their unfaithful partner.

False Complaints to Police

Making a false complaint to a police officer, giving false information to a rescue squad or fire department, and misrepresenting your identity to an officer during a traffic stop to avoid arrest or charges are all illegal in South Carolina.

If you got pulled over for speeding and presented a fake ID or lied about your address in hopes of avoiding arrest, you may end up digging a deeper hole for yourself. It is in your best interests to provide the officer with your legitimate ID, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance when asked rather than lie, or else you may end up getting arrested, nonetheless.

It is also a crime to knowingly provide false information to a rescue squad or fire department. Let’s say you are at your neighbor’s house babysitting their 10-year-old child when a house fire erupts. If a firefighter asks what started the fire and you say, “I accidentally burned a pizza in the kitchen oven” and they later discover that you knocked over a candle in the living room, you could get arrested and taken into custody for further questioning.

Perjury: What Happens If You Lie Under Oath?

"Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?"

Judges will ask witnesses to swear under this oath before they testify in court. It should be taken very seriously. Once a witness swears to tell the truth, they are expected to do just that. If it is later discovered that they willingly lied under oath, the witness would likely get charged for perjury.

Perjury is committed when a person willingly gives false, misleading, or incomplete testimony under oath in any court of record, judicial, administrative, or regulatory proceeding. It is also illegal for a person to do such on a document, record, report, or form required by South Caroline laws.

The penalty for committing perjury under oath in court is a felony charge punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine to be determined by the judge. If a person commits perjury on a document, record, report, or form, they will get charged with a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in prison and/or $100 fines.

Were You Caught Lying to the Police?

If you are facing criminal charges for making false statements to the police, contact our criminal defense lawyer ay (803) 938-4952 to learn how we can help. Our attorney will work tirelessly to help get your charges reduced or dismissed so you can move on.