Police officers in California generate thousands of police reports every day. Most cops strive to be as accurate and truthful as possible.
But we all know that police sometimes lie. They lie in their crime reports. They lie on the witness stand in court. Usually they get away with it. But not always.
What happens when an officer gets caught making false statements in his/her police report?
For starters, the cop will likely face disciplinary action from the department. This could range from a warning, to suspension, to termination and loss of pension benefits.
There's also the possibility of criminal prosecution. If the officer lies under oath at a proceeding, or lies under oath in a sworn police report, the D.A could file perjury charges. Perjury is a felony in California and carries up to four years state prison.
Even if the report is not under oath, the D.A. could still file charges under Penal Code 118.1 – police officers filing false reports. This section makes it a crime for a police officer to make a false statement about a criminal matter in any police report, regardless of whether the report is submitted under oath.
Under the California crime of Penal Code 118.1 - police officers filing false reports, can be filed as a misdemeanor or a felony, and a conviction carries up to three years in state prison.
It's true that prosecutors rarely file criminal charges against police officers for misconduct in the line of duty. But the existence of these laws should serve as a deterrent to any officer from making false statements in reports or in court. (Also refer to our article, "Can I sue the police in California?"