Those who are speaking to police regarding a crime may choose to withhold details or lie about facts; yet providing false or misleading information of any kind to law enforcement is against the law.
Wrong personal information
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A person may lie about their own identity to police, which is often done to avoid warrants or probation violations. When a person lies about who they are to police officers, they are providing false or misleading information and could face anywhere from 90 days to a full year in jail.
Utah Code 76-8-507 states: “A person commits a class C misdemeanor if, with intent of misleading a peace officer as to the person’s identity, birth date, or place of residence, the person knowingly gives a false name, birth date, or address to a peace officer in the lawful discharge of the peace officer’s official duties. A person commits a class A misdemeanor if, with the intent of leading a peace officer to believe that the person is another actual person, he gives the name, birth date, or address of another person to a peace officer acting in the lawful discharge of the peace officer’s official duties.”
Being a bad witness
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Those who witness a crime involving a friend or family member may intentionally become a bad witness who doesn’t convey information accurately to police officers. It is common for eye witnesses to not get every detail correct, especially when describing an assailant. However if officers believe that someone is lying to cover for another person, especially by putting the blame on another, they can face charges of providing false or misleading information. According to Utah Code 76-8-506, “A person is guilty of a class B misdemeanor if he: knowingly gives or causes to be given false information to any peace officer or any state or local government agency or personnel with a purpose of inducing the recipient of the information to believe that another has committed an offense.” While there is a small chance that the person may help protect their friend from charges by lying, they will likely end up with their own charges to deal with.
Making a false police report
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Occasionally, it isn’t answering questions dishonestly that gets people into trouble for providing false or misleading information. It could also be due to lying while filing a police report. Providing law enforcement with a written police report that has known false information is also a class B misdemeanor. (76-8-504) There are numerous misguided reasons in which an individual would file a false police report.
• Being angry after an argument or when wanting revenge on another person may drive an individual to construct up a crime. A few scenarios when this could be the motive for providing false or misleading information to police are: disputes between ex-lovers, when business deals go bad, or even after neighborly disputes. Regardless the motive, making not-so-true accusations when emotions are running high will hurt both parties in the end.
• When trying to hide a truth about themselves, fashioning a story may seem an easy way around getting caught. A woman in Southern Utah made this mistake last year when she had an affair then claimed she was raped by a random man while out on the city trails. Her lie was eventually uncovered by police, and beyond marital problems she now has a criminal record.
• There are some people who simply want attention or validation and will do ANYTHING to get it. These individuals seek attention by becoming a victim. Unless they are unfortunate to actually be a victim in a crime, they may generate one instead. Earlier this year, a homosexual Delta Utah man claimed he was the target of a LGBT hate crime when in fact the only person involved was himself. While he will most likely face charges for providing false or misleading information to police, he was also encouraged to seek mental health counseling.
Keep it short, sweet, and honest
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When speaking to law enforcement, it is best to keep your answers short, sweet, and completely honest. If you are concerned that you may be offering information to police that you shouldn’t do without counsel present, never succumb to providing false or misleading information. You have the right to remain silent until you can contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to guide you how to best deal with police questioning.