Penal Code 118.1 PC - Police Officers Filing a False Report
Penal Code 118.1 PC is the statute that makes it a crime for police officers to knowingly make a false statement when filing a report regarding a crime, even when not under the penalty of perjury.
Police testimony is crucial for prosecuting people for criminal charges. This means they must be held accountable when filing their reports about a crime.
Simply put, this law makes it a crime for police officers to place false information in their report over alleged offenses intentionally. It does not matter if the officer didn't sign the police report to face Penal Code 118 PC perjury charges.
Put simply, just writing false information in a police report is sufficient to violate this statute. If the officer did not sign the report, they could face PC 118 perjury charges.
Penal Code 118.1 says, “Every peace officer who files any report with the agency which employs him or her regarding the commission of any crime or any investigation of any crime if he or she knowingly and intentionally makes any statement regarding any material matter in the report which the officer knows to be false, whether or not the statement is certified or otherwise expressly reported as true, is guilty of filing a false report punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year, or in the state prison for one, two, or three years. This section shall not apply to the contents of any statement which the peace officer attributes in the report to any other person.”
Any information is deemed "material" if significant to the presented facts. This means that minor or trivial information is not considered material. In addition, the police report must be connected to a criminal matter. Let's review this law in more detail below.
What Does the Law Say?
This law deals with a police officer's testimony in their official capacity when filing reports over the commission or investigation of a crime.
As noted in the definition, it's illegal for a police officer to "knowingly and intentionally makes any statement regarding any material matter in the report.”
Typically, any statement certified to be true is under penalty of perjury. This statute makes it illegal for a peace officer to make false statements even when the perjury rules don't apply. This means the information they place in a police report is under oath.
For an officer to be convicted of Penal Code 118.1 PC making a false report, the prosecutor must be able to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, the following elements of the crime:
- You are a police officer under California law;
- You filed a written report regarding a crime;
- You intentionally gave material false information.
A California "peace officer" in the context of this statute can be any of the following:
- Police officer,
- Sheriff's deputy,
- Highway patrol officer, or
- Any other type of law enforcement officer.
As stated, police officers are only guilty under his law if they knowingly enter false information. A related crime is Penal Code 148.5 PC false report of a crime. Penal Code 148.9 PC defines the crime of false identification to a police officer.
What Are the Penalties?
- A misdemeanor carries up to one year in jail and summary probation;
- A felony carries up to three years in prison and formal probation.
What Are the Legal Defenses?
As discussed below, a California criminal defense lawyer could use several strategies to challenge charges of filing a false report as a peace officer.
Maybe we could argue that you didn't make a material statement. In other words, perhaps the information in question was not highly relevant or material to the case and did not impact the defendant's guilt or innocence.
Maybe we could argue that you reasonably thought these statements were true when they were made. Perhaps the information was provided to you by another police officer, only to find out later that it was inaccurate. This means that you did not knowingly provide false information.
Maybe we could argue that the statements in question were an honest mistake. Perhaps you misunderstood the facts of the case, but there was never a deliberate attempt to give false information.
Perhaps it's possible to negotiate prefiling with the prosecutor to persuade them not to file formal criminal charges in the first place, called a “DA reject.” You can contact our law firm for a free case evaluation by phone or through the contact form. Cron, Israels & Stark is located in Los Angeles, California.