- police or peace officer,
- grand jury, OR
- state or local employee assigned to accept reports from citizens (such as a 911 operator).
Penal Code 148.5 only applies when the person reporting the false crime knows it to be false. It is always a defense if the person has a good faith belief that the report is true, even if that belief turns out to be mistaken.
Applies to Solicited and Unsolicited Information
Obviously the law applies to situations where a person takes the initiative to contact the police and make a false report. But it also applies to cases where a third party reports the crime initially, and the defendant gives a false witness statement once the police have begun their investigation.
Example: You witness a fight on the street. Alan comes up and starts punching Billy for no apparent reason. Someone else calls the police. The police arrive and ask you for a witness statement. You falsely report that "Billy started it. He just started punching Alan for no reason."
Even though you were not the one who contacted the police to begin with, you are still liable under Penal Code 148.5 because you reported false information to the police about a criminal matter.
As the courts have explained, "A person who voluntarily supplies information about a purported crime to a law enforcement officer makes a report, within the meaning of the statute, whether the information is supplied in response to a police inquiry or is unsolicited. The damage which section 148.5 seeks to avoid waste of law enforcement time and money, defamation of innocent reputations is just as likely to occur in a situation where the police have been called to a location by a third party, as it is when the defendant calls the police to the location or shows up at a police station and makes the false report."1
Penalties for Making a False Report of a Crime
Penal Code 148.5 PC makes it a misdemeanor to make a false report of a crime to the police or other authorities. As a misdemeanor, a person convicted faces up to six months in county jail.
In some cases, the judge may grant probation with little or no actual jail time. In deciding how much jail time to impose, the judge will consider
- the person's criminal history,
- the person's motive for making the false police report, and
- the consequences of the false report (such as whether it caused an innocent person to get arrested).
Also, Vehicle Code 10501 VC makes it a separate crime to make or file a false report of a vehicle theft. Like PC 148.5, filing a false auto theft report is a misdemeanor. However, if this is not your first offense, that crime becomes a wobbler, which means it potentially carries felony penalties.
Contact Us for Help...
If you've been charged with making a false report of a crime, don't despair. People get wrongly accused of this all the time.
You may have had a good faith belief that the crime really did occur. Or it may have been another person who made the false report but you got blamed for it.
If you or loved one is charged with Penal Code 148.5 PC making a false report and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.
Our California criminal defense attorneys can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.
1 People v. Lawson (1979) 100 Cal.App.3d 60, 67.