If you feel anxious or are unable to communicate clearly when the police interrogate you, you are definitely not alone. Many people get nervous when approached by police, whose tactics and approach may make it difficult to answer questions accurately and calmly. In these situations, it’s okay to say you don’t know the answer, but you should never lie or otherwise falsify information.
This is because in some cases you can be arrested for lying to a police officer, especially when the false information concerns a crime or a currently active investigation. The charges associated, known collectively as Giving False Information, can range from misdemeanors to full blown felonies, and many come with both financial penalties and possible jail time.
Giving False Information charges can be difficult or even next to impossible to successfully dismiss if you try to take on Florida’s legal system alone. Your best bet at a favorable court outcome is to hire a criminal defense lawyer to review the details of your case and properly defend you in court.
When Is Lying to Police a Crime?
While you should never falsify information or otherwise lie to law enforcement, not every situation in which you didn’t give the proper information will get you arrested. Florida Statute 837.055 defines lying to the police as “knowingly and willfully giving false information to a law enforcement officer who is conducting a missing person investigation or a felony criminal investigation with the intent to mislead the officer or impede the investigation”. So, if you accidentally give inaccurate information or don’t tell the truth while chatting with the police about the weather or something else unrelated to the specific case being investigated, it’s not necessarily a crime and you would not be charged with Giving False Information. However, if you knowingly lie while being asked about the commission of a crime and provide incorrect information, in an attempt to try and keep a friend or family member out of trouble, it’s a criminal offense that could get you arrested and charged. This tactic is an almost surefire way to end up with possible prison time or hefty fines and should be avoided at all costs.
Similarly, if the police ask for details regarding a case currently being investigated, such as a missing persons case, you could be arrested for providing false information or lying in an effort to draw out or otherwise impede the investigation process. Whether you purposely give the wrong information or claim you don’t have any information when you do, you’re committing a crime under Florida law and, if caught, will have to suffer the legal and personal fallout for that choice. The best way to avoid this is invoke your right to remain silent and and to have the proper legal representation in court to tell your side of the story.
What Are the Penalties?
If you lied to the police, you might be worried about the consequences of being arrested and charged. The penalties for this crime vary depending on whether you have prior convictions and how important the information you lied about was, but all charges are serious ones with significant financial, legal and personal implications, and should not be brushed off or treated lightly.
If you give false information about a crime that is not a capital felony and it’s your first offense, you will be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. This could result in up to one year of jail time or probation plus a $1,000 fine.
If this is your second time being caught lying to police, you’ll be charged with a third-degree felony. This could lead to up to five years in prison or probation plus a $5,000 fine. You would face the same penalties if your lie concerned a capital felony, even if it was your first time caught lying.
What Are Possible Defenses for Lying?
Once you have been formerly charged with Giving False Information and are going through the legal courtroom proceedings, the prosecution must prove that five things occurred during the interrogation or questioning, detailed as follows:
- You knew you were talking to a police officer or other law enforcement official
- The person asking you is currently a police officer or other law enforcement official
- Demonstrably false or inaccurate information was given
- You knew that the information was false or inaccurate
- The information pertained to as is a part of the crime being investigated
The only way to have the charges stick is for all five factors to be true beyond doubt, so if any of them are questionable or open to interpretation, it means that the charges could either be lessened or even dismissed outright.
If you’re accused of lying to the police, you need to hire a Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer to create the right defense strategy for your case. Your legal team can prove that you did not know the information was false or that you did not know that the person you were talking to was a police officer, then the charges or sentence could be lessened or even dismissed. Don’t leave things to chance or enter the courtroom unprepared. Get help from an experienced legal professional immediately to have the best chance of avoiding felony charges or even jail time.
To find out what defense would work best for your case, call our law firm at 954-523-3811 to talk to an attorney about your legal options today in an initial consultation with one of our knowledgeable attorneys.