Can I be arrested for lying to a police officer?

Lying to a police officer is a criminal offense in Florida, which can result in penalties including fines and imprisonment. The category of the offense and severity of the penalties depend on the subject matter of the false information and the past convictions of the defendant.

If you were accused of giving false information to an officer and are facing an arrest, or if you are under investigation for a crime, call Goldman Wetzel in St. Petersburg and speak to our defense lawyers about your case: 727-828-3900.

What are Florida’s laws regarding lying to a police officer?

Sometimes people panic when questioned by the police. They may lie about a friend’s or family member’s whereabouts, lie about their own name to avoid being charged with a crime, or embellish their eyewitness account to thwart an investigation. You do not have to speak to an officer if you choose to exercise that right, but you not have the right to lie to an officer. Lying exacerbates the issue and can result in your arrest.

Florida law criminalizes providing a law enforcement officer with false information about an investigation or a crime. Florida Statute § 837.05(1)(a) states that a person commits the offense when s/he “knowingly gives false information to a law enforcement officer concerning the alleged commission of any crime.”

Furthermore, if officers ever lawfully detain or arrest you, it is against the law to give a false name to the officer. Florida Statute § 901.36(1) states that if you “give a false name, or otherwise falsely identify [yourself] in any way, to the law enforcement officer or any county jail personnel,” you will be charged with a misdemeanor or felony crime, depending on the nature of your original charges.

What are the penalties for lying to police?

The severity of the penalties for giving false information to a police officer depends on what the police were questioning you about and whether you had prior convictions for lying to officers:

  • First offense: If it was your first offense and you provided false information regarding a misdemeanor or non-capital felony, you will be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor, which could result in up to one year in jail, one year of probation, and/or a $1,000 fine.
  • Second offense: If you already have a “false reports to law enforcement authorities” charge on your record and were providing false information about a non-capital offense, you will be charged with a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
  • Capital felony: If you provided false information to an officer regarding a capital felony, you will be charged with a third-degree felony resulting in up to five years imprisonment and a $5,000 fine, even if it was your first offense.
  • Using another person’s name: If you use another person’s name when falsely identifying yourself to law enforcement — and that identification “adversely affects” that person — you face third-degree felony charges. 

What are the defenses to providing false information charges?

In order for the court to convict you of providing false information to a police officer, the prosecutor must successfully prove that:

  • You knowingly gave information about the commission of a crime,
  • You knew the information you gave was false,
  • You gave the information to a law enforcement officer, and
  • You knew the person you gave the information to was an officer.

Sometimes, the prosecution has a hard time proving that the information was false. For instance, if officers questioned you about an altercation you witnessed, your point of view, memory, and interactions with others in the crowd may all have affected the story you told the police. It would be difficult for the prosecutor to prove that the information you provided was false because your vantage point and perception matter.

Defenses to lying to an officer can revolve around disproving any of the aforementioned elements. For example, you might be able to show that you did not know the information you gave was false. You might have legitimately thought you were giving valid information. 

Does Goldman Wetzel accept proving false information cases?

Our criminal defense lawyers at Goldman Wetzel accept all types of misdemeanor and felony cases in St. Petersburg, including those involving providing false information to police officers. When you work with us, we will fight for the best outcome possible for your case. Our lawyers Summer and Maribeth work together on every case, which provides double the skills and passion to aggressively defend our clients.

Call our office today 727-828-3900 for a free consultation.

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