Police officers are legally required to only include truthful information in their official reports. Law enforcement officers that disobey this regulation can be prosecuted under California Penal Code Section 118.1: Police Officers Filing False Reports.
The Simmrin Law Group can tell you more about possible defenses to a PC 118.1 charge if you’ve been accused of this crime. If you’re an officer of the law, being charged with filing a false report doesn’t have to ruin your future if you have an experienced California criminal defense lawyer on your side.
California’s Definition of Police Officers Filing False Reports
To be prosecuted for filing a false report as a police officer under California PC Section 118.1, there are a few elements, which must all be true. These include:
- The defendant must be a law enforcement officer.
- The defendant must have been acting in an official capacity.
- The report must have contained false information regarding a material matter.
- The defendant must have written a report regarding a criminal matter.
- The officer must have known the information was false when entering it into the report.
- The officer must have filed the report.
Since the law enforcement officer must be acting in an official capacity, they would not be charged under Penal Code Section 118.1 if they were filing a report as a civilian. If an officer was reporting a break-in to their home and provided false information to the responding officer, they would not be guilty of violating this section of the penal code.
In order for information to be considered material, it needs to be important information related to the matter at hand. Any falsified information determined to be inconsequential to the case would not result in prosecution under Penal Code 118.1.
Likewise, false information included in a civil report would not be prosecuted under California PC 118.1 because those reports do not relate to a criminal matter. Additionally, an officer can not be charged for a violation if a witness provided false information that the officer reported. Knowingly falsifying is a key component of this crime.
There are several other violations of the penal code that an officer may face in relation to PC 118.1. Depending on the circumstances, officers could face these charges in addition to, or instead of, a violation of Penal Code 118.1. Other penal codes an officer could face prosecution under include:
- California Penal Code Section 115: Filing a False Document
- California Penal Code Section 118: Perjury
- California Penal Code Sections 132 & 134: Offering or Preparing False Evidence
- California Penal Code Section 148.5: Falsely Reporting a Crime
Penalties for PC 118.1 Violations in California
California Penal Code Section 118.1 is considered a “wobbler.” That means that police officers who file false reports may be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony in California. Misdemeanor PC 118.1 charges are less severe.
The penalties for a misdemeanor conviction under Penal Code 118.1 include up to one year in jail or summary probation. With a felony conviction, the potential consequences are far greater, with the possibility of up to three years in prison or formal probation.
Police officers may also face sanctions from their police department. They could lose their jobs. Some police officers are even forbidden from working again in law enforcement after a PC 118.1 conviction. If the officer is convicted of a felony, they would also lose their rights to own or possess a gun.
Examples of Police Officers Filing False Reports
There are many possible ways a police officer could be charged with filing a false report. The following examples show when PC 118.1 does and does not come into play.
A police officer pulls a man over without good cause. He ends up arresting the man and filing a report about the situation that claims that the man became aggressive and that he was driving under the influence. Video from his cruiser shows that none of this behavior actually occurred. The police officer could be charged under PC 118.1.
A police officer is called to a business where an act of vandalism just occurred when the business owner runs up and claims that he saw everything that happened. The officer records the owner’s statement, even though she believes that he did not see anything. She should not be charged with filing a false report since she was writing down information from a third party.
A police officer files a report on an arson case. He accurately reports all facts related to the act of arson. However, he misrepresents information about some of the trees he saw while investigating the case. The facts about trees are not significant to the investigation and should not constitute filing a false report.
Legal Defenses to PC 118.1 Charges
There are a number of possible legal defenses that can be used to fight PC 118.1 charges. You can contact a criminal defense lawyer who may be able to argue:
- You did not intend to file a false report
- You were reporting information provided by witnesses
- You thought you were telling the truth
You Did Not Intent to File a False Report
Accidents can happen. Police officers that report false information by accident should not be convicted under PC 118.1. A lawyer can dig into your case to show that you did not intentionally report false information.
You Were Reporting Information Provided by Witnesses
Sometimes, eyewitnesses to criminal acts lie to police officers. Police officers may record these false statements in their reports, as long as they are not presenting the false information as their own account.
You Thought You Were Reporting the Truth
It is possible to file a report containing information that you legitimately believed to be true, only to later find out it was false. Individuals should not be convicted in this situation since they did not intentionally file a false report.
Get Professional Help Handling PC 118.1 Charges
California Penal Code Section 118.1: Police Officers Filing False Reports charges can lead to incarceration and the loss of your job. Make sure you’re handling a PC 118.1 charge aggressively by contacting the Simmrin Law Group today.
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