Charged with giving false information to a peace officer?
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 components of Vehicle Code 31 VC California's law against making false statements to a peace / police officer.
1. Vehicle Code 31 VC -- Giving False Information to a Police Officer
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: Defendant was being investigated for the unlawful possession of dealer license plates that were locked in his desk. He denied having a key to a second desk where more plates were located. However, as the officers were about to force open the drawer, he retrieved a key from his pocket.
Defendant was convicted of Vehicle Code 31 VC for knowingly making a false statement to the police about having a key to the desk.3
A conviction for this offense subjects you to a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.4
2. Related Offenses
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).
3. Legal Defenses
As Santa Ana criminal defense attorney Zachary McCready5 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."
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.
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 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; Penal Code 472 PC California's Law Against Forging, Counterfeiting, or Possessing a Fraudulent Seal; and California Legal Defenses.
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.
3People v. Millar (1979) 97 Cal.App.3d Supp. 1.
4California 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 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 Zachary McCready defends clients throughout Orange County, including Fullerton, Anaheim, Newport Beach, Santa Ana, Irvine and Westminster.