Q: What happens if someone falsely reports a crime?

A: A person who informs a law enforcement officer that a crime has been committed or otherwise provides information to an on-duty peace officer, regarding the conduct of others, knowing that it is false and intending that the officer shall act in reliance upon this information has committed a violation.

The statute serves two purposes. First and foremost it helps to protect citizens from being falsely accused of a crime. Without this law, a person could accuse another of a crime, knowing that the accusation is false, without having to worry about any repercussions for their action. Secondly, it helps prevent the already overly burdened criminal justice system from being flooded with false criminal accusations.

Law enforcement agencies spend thousands of hours each year investigating criminal complaints which are later found to be false. Examples include burglaries or arson (often for insurance fraud), vehicle thefts (usually after a DWI-related crash), thefts and assaults.

Citizens should never hesitate to call their local law enforcement officials to report a crime or what they believe may be criminal activity; it is not illegal to be mistaken. However, reporting criminal activity that a person knows to be false can lead to criminal and civil consequences.