Citizens are required to file a police report when an incident involving a violation of the law occurs. However, the report should be factual and, at the same time, should be free of biased opinions or hearsay. This is because a police report is one of the court documents that are the foundation of a case.
That said, filing a false police report can lead to serious legal implications. Strictly speaking, a false police report charge is prosecuted aggressively in Florida, and the governing statute provides for stringent penalties for the offenders.
For this reason, if you or your loved one is facing a charge relating to filing a false police report, you need all the legal help you can get. Essentially, a criminal defense attorney at the Meltzer & Bell law firm has experience handling such charges and can help you build a robust defense towards ensuring that the charges are defeated.
Here is what you need to know about a false police report charge in Florida, the potential penalties you are likely to face and how a criminal defense attorney can help you.
Understanding a false police report charge: The legal Basis
Florida statute 817.49 makes it an offense for a person to make a false report to a law enforcement officer knowingly. In simpler terms, the offense is deemed to have been committed if the defendant files a report to law enforcement, knowing that the information provided is false.
Legally speaking, you can’t be charged under Florida statute 817.49 if you make a police report with the mistaken belief that the information provided is true.
What’s more, the governing statute contemplates that the offense will have been committed if the report was made to any of the following enforcement officers:
- Police officers
- Law enforcement employees who take reports from citizens
- Peace officers
- District attorneys
- Grand juries
Noteworthy is that you can’t be charged with the offense if the report was made to any other person other than an enforcement officer contemplated under Florida statute 817.49.
How can the prosecution prove that you made a false police report in Florida?
To sustain the primary charge of filing a false police report, the prosecution must prove four core elements beyond reasonable doubt.
Stated simply, the prosecution will need to prove that:
- The defendant willfully provided false information or made a false police report to a law enforcement officer.
- The defendant knew that the information provided or the report made was false.
- The report was made to a law enforcement officer.
- The defendant knew the officer was a law enforcement officer
What are the Potential penalties for Filing a False Police Report in Florida?
Filing a false police report in Florida is classified as a misdemeanor under Florida’s criminal statute. The criminal penalties associated with the charge include:
- Up to one year in jail
- Fines of up to $ 1,000.
- Supervised probation
- Community service
Noteworthy is that the penalties imposed on offenders upon conviction are severe. What’s more, there are various aggravating factors which may enhance your sentence or may have an impact on the potential penalties imposed. As such, it is important to take all the necessary steps to avoid conviction, including hiring a criminal defense attorney.
Can a Civil Claim be initiated following a “false Police Report charge”?
In addition to the criminal sanctions imposed by the relevant statute, the defendant may also face a civil lawsuit. Typically a civil lawsuit may be initiated alongside the primary charge or after successful conviction of the charge.
An interested party in the civil suit may seek to hold you liable for their damages if you are charged with filing a false police report. The lawsuit will be for defamation or intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Noteworthy is that a civil lawsuit may lead to a settlement against the defendant. This can cause financial strain on the alleged offender if the suit goes against them. For this reason, you need to have a criminal defense attorney by your side to help you prove your case beyond a reasonable doubt.
What are the common defenses to the “filing a false Report “Charge in Florida?
To succeed in your case, a criminal defense attorney can invoke certain legal defenses geared towards impeaching the credibility of the prosecution’s evidence.
Some of the common defenses Include the following:
The report can’t be proven to be False
Proving that the report made is true can be a viable defense in such a charge. In essence, your attorney will be demonstrating that the information filed in the police report is factual and consistent with the legal requirements.
It would be a defense to allude to the fact that you filed the police report believing that the report was true. In other words, although the police report was filed in good faith. This means that even if the content of the police report is false, you can’t be convicted of the charge.
The Report was Not Made to the law enforcement officers.
One of the core elements in a charge relating to filing a false police report is that the false report must be filed to a law enforcement officer. This means the charge would fail if the report were not filed to a law enforcement officer. Therefore, demonstrating that the person in question is not a law enforcement officer can be a viable defense in such a charge.
Should you hire a Criminal Defense Attorney?
Following an arrest, you need to hire a criminal defense attorney to safeguard your rights and interests throughout the criminal proceedings. Essentially, an attorney will weigh your options and, at the same time, build a robust defense geared towards having the charges quashed.
Stated simply, an attorney will:
- Gather all relevant written statements, including photographs and other documents
- Identify flaws in the police officer’s investigation
- Identify and invoke all possible legal defenses
Need help? Contact a criminal defense attorney in Florida.
If you or your loved one is facing a charge relating to filing a false police report in Florida, you need to act promptly to safeguard your rights. It would be best to have a criminal defense attorney from the onset who will help build a robust defense towards ensuring that you avoid conviction.
At the Meltzer & Bell Law firm, we have experience handling criminal charges in Florida and will work hard to ensure that you defeat all the charges and avoid conviction. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.