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Can a person recant a statement in a police report?

Posted by Neil Shouse | May 03, 2019 | 0 Comments

young lady giving testimony to police
A person in California can decide to recant or withdraw a statement that he made to a police officer

Any person who gives a statement to the police may decide to recant that statement.

But, even if a statement gets recanted, people must know that:

  • a prosecutor can still choose to file criminal charges against a defendant, and
  • if a person recants a statement because it was false, then the party may face criminal consequences.

These consequences include being charged with:

Recanting a statement means that a person wants to retract, withdraw, or take back a previous statement that he made to law enforcement personnel.

Can a party recant a statement in a California police report?

A person in California can decide to recant or withdraw a statement that he made to a police officer. But people should know that, even if a statement gets recanted:

  • a prosecutor can still file criminal charges against a defendant, and
  • if a person recants a statement because it was false or a lie, that person could face criminal consequences.

In California criminal cases, the determination as to what, or if, charges get filed, is made by the State Attorney. This decision is not made by a victim or witness. This means that, even if a statement gets recanted, a prosecutor will continue with the case against the defendant. This is assuming the prosecutor has enough other evidence available to support the charges in question.

Other evidence of a crime might include:

  • photographs of injuries or property damage,
  • audio or video recordings, including 911 calls,
  • statements or threats made on social media,
  • medical records,
  • surveillance video, and
  • statements made by other witnesses.

There are some cases where it is 100 percent agreeable for a person to want to recant a statement. This could be when a party was mistaken when making a statement or when police misunderstood a statement. In these cases, it is typically not a problem for a person to wish to recant certain communications given to police.

However, the situation is entirely different if a party wants to recant a statement because he provided a false statement to authorities. In these situations, the party could face criminal charges of either:

  • giving false information to a police officer, per Vehicle Code 31, or
  • obstructing justice, per Penal Code 148.

What is providing false information to a police officer, per California Vehicle Code 31?

Vehicle Code 31 VC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to give a police officer false information.

A person can violate this law in a variety of ways. Some common examples include providing a police officer with:

  • a false name,
  • a fake, counterfeit, or "borrowed" driver's license, and
  • a false answer to a question.

Giving false information to a police officer is a California misdemeanor. The consequences of a VC 31 conviction are:

  • up to six months in a county jail, and/or
  • a fine of up to $1,000.

What is obstructing justice, per California Penal Code 148?

Penal Code 148 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to willfully:

  • resist,
  • delay, or otherwise
  • obstruct

a law enforcement officer or emergency medical technician (EMT) while s/he is performing (or attempting to perform) his/her duties.

A wide variety of activities can resist, delay, or obstruct an officer or EMT in the performance of their duties. The act of giving a false name to police officers is one example of “obstructing justice.” Another is lying to an officer about what that person witnessed, or on how a defendant acted.

A violation of PC 148 is charged as a misdemeanor. The crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.

What are some reasons a person would want to recant a statement?

There are several reasons why a victim or witness would want to recant a statement. Some of the most common include:

  1. the person made a mistake when initially speaking with authorities,
  2. a witness was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or was heavily medicated,
  3. police misunderstood a witness and made an error in taking a statement,
  4. a victim or witness decided not to be involved in a case (perhaps he was intimidated by the defendant), and/or
  5. a person lied to the police (maybe to protect the defendant).

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.

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