Giving false information to a police officer is a crime in California under Vehicle Code 31 VC. If you are convicted of making false statements to an officer under VC 31, you will face misdemeanor penalties.
Vehicle Code 31 PC reads: "No person shall give, either orally or in writing, information to a peace officer while in the performance of his duties under the provisions of this code when such person knows that the information is false."
If you are charged with this crime, we can help.
As former police investigators and prosecutors, we know that there are always two sides to every story and that just because you've been arrested for this crime doesn't mean that you have to be convicted of this crime.
Below, our California criminal defense attorneys1 explain the legal definition, the California misdemeanor consequences and the common legal defenses that you can use to fight charges of Vehicle Code 31 VC California's law against making false statements to a peace / police officer.
1. What is the Legal Definition of Providing False Information to an Officer under VC 31?
Vehicle 31 VC states, "No person shall give, either orally or in writing, information to a peace officer while in the performance of his duties under the provisions of this code when such person knows that the information is false."2
You can violate this law in a variety of ways. Some common examples include (but are not limited to) providing a peace officer with
- a false name,
- a fake, counterfeit, or "borrowed" driver's license,
- a fake, forged, or counterfeit registration (which would also be a violation of Vehicle Code 4463 VC California's fraudulent vehicle registration law),
- inaccurate information about the truck you are driving or the weight of its load (in order to avoid a citation for Vehicle Code 35551 overweight vehicles), or
- any answer to a question that you know is false.
Example: Greg is being investigated for the unlawful possession of dealer license plates that are locked in his desk. He denies having a key to a second desk where more plates are located. However, as the officers are about to force open the drawer, he retrieves a key from his pocket.
Greg is guilty of Vehicle Code 31 VC for knowingly making a false statement to the police about having a key to the desk.3
2. What are the Penalties for VC 31 Giving False Information to an Officer?
Giving false information to a police officer is a California misdemeanor. The consequences of a VC 31 conviction are:
- Up to six (6) months in county jail; and/or
- A fine of up to one thousand dollars ($1,000).4
3. What are Some Similar Offenses to False Statements to an Officer?
This type of offense is closely related to a variety of others. For example -- depending on the exact circumstances -- giving false information to an officer who is performing his/her duties may also be considered a violation of:
- Penal Code 148 PC California's law against resisting, delaying, or obstructing an officer engaged in the performance of his/her duties,
- Vehicle Code 20 VC California's law against making false statements to a California Highway Patrol officer,
- Penal Code 185 PC California's law against wearing a mask or disguise to evade police, which could be charged against you if you are wearing a disguise to avoid recognition after committing or being chargd with a crime, and/or
- Penal Code 472 PC California's law against forging, counterfeiting, or possessing a fraudulent seal (if, for example, you present an officer with a fake or counterfeit driver's license that bears a "seal" supposedly issued by the California Department of Motor Vehicles).
4. How Can I Fight a VC 31 Charge?
As Santa Ana criminal defense attorney Nicole Valera5 explains:
"There is one underlying fact that must be proven before prosecutors can convict you of Vehicle Code 31 VC -- or, for that matter -- any other case involving fraud. California fraud offenses all necessarily involve an intent to deceive. If the prosecution can't prove intentional deception, then you have a legal defense to the crime that you can use to fight the charge of giving false information to a police officer and keep a VC 31 conviction off your record."
This means that if you accidentally make a false statement to a cop -- if, for example, you were simply nervous and weren't thinking clearly -- you are not guilty of knowingly making a false statement.
Similarly, if you hold a forged or counterfeit document, driver's license, etc. that you present to an officer -- an item which you believed was legitimate -- you did not knowingly present the officer with false information.
If there is no intent to defraud, you are not guilty of violating Vehicle Code 31 VC or any of the other related California fraud offenses listed above -- period. You can use the legal defense of lack of intent to fight the charges of giving false information to an officer.
Call us for help . . .
If you or loved one is charged with Vehicle Code 31 VC false statements and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We 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.
You may also find helpful information in our related articles on California Misdemeanor Penalties; Common Legal Defenses to California Crimes; California Fraud Laws; Vehicle Code 4463 VC California's Fraudulent Vehicle Registration Law; Vehicle Code 35551 Overweight Vehicles; Vehicle Code 20 VC California's Law Against Making False Statements to a California Highway Patrol Officer; Penal Code 185 PC Wearing a Mask or Disguise to Evade Police; Penal Code 148 PC California's Law Against Resisting, Delaying, or Obstructing an Officer Engaged in the Performance of His/Her Duties; and Penal Code 472 PC California's Law Against Forging, Counterfeiting, or Possessing a Fraudulent Seal.
¿Habla español? Visite nuestro sitio Web en español sobre declaraciones falsas información a un oficial de policía del orden público en California.
1Our California criminal defense attorneys have local Los Angeles law offices in Beverly Hills, Burbank, Glendale, Lancaster, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Pomona, Torrance, Van Nuys, West Covina, and Whittier. We have additional law offices conveniently located throughout the state in Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.
2Vehicle Code 31 VC -- California's law against giving false information to a peace officer. ("No person shall give, either orally or in writing, information to a peace officer while in the performance of his duties under the provisions of this code when such person knows that the information is false.")
3People v. Millar (1979) 97 Cal.App.3d Supp. 1.
4 Vehicle Code 40000.5 VC -- Misdemeanors. ("A violation of any of the following provisions shall constitute a misdemeanor, and not an infraction: Section 20, relating to false statements. Section 27, relating to impersonating a member of the California Highway Patrol. Section 31, relating to giving false information.")
See also California Penal Code 19 PC -- Punishment for misdemeanor; punishment not otherwise prescribed. ("Except in cases where a different punishment is prescribed by any law of this state, every offense declared to be a misdemeanor [such as Vehicle Code 31 false information to an officer] is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or by fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both.")
5Santa Ana criminal defense attorney Nicole Valera defends clients accused of crimes like providing false information to a peace officer throughout the court systems of Los Angeles County and Orange County, including Fullerton, Anaheim, Newport Beach, Santa Ana, Irvine and Westminster.