California Criminal Law: Making a False Police Report

On January 29, 2019, actor Jussie Smollett filed a report with police alleging that he was attacked by two white males wearing MAGA hats. During the “attack,” the attackers allegedly yelled homophobic slurs, poured bleach on him, tied a rope around his neck and yelled “This is MAGA country.”

After investigating the reported crime, prosecutors now allege that Smollett staged the attack by hiring two men to “attack” him. Prosecutors further allege that Smollett’s motive for filing the false police report was to enhance his career status. On February 21, 2019, in Chicago, Illinois, Smollett appeared in court facing charges for felony disorderly conduct stemming from the alleged false police report that he filed the previous month.

Since the Smollett investigation began to focus on Smollett, I have been asked, “What if he made the false police report here in California?” This post may help with answering those questions.

CA Penal Code Section 148.5 – Making a False Police Report

In California, under Penal Code section 148.5, it is unlawful to knowingly make a false report to a police officer. Making a false report to police is a misdemeanor offense. This statute also applies to knowingly making false reports to prosecutors, a grand jury, or while making a 911 call.

In order to prove a violation of P.C. 148.5, a prosecutor must prove that the person who made the false police report knew that it was false at the time that the report was made. Thus, a good faith belief that the report was true would be a good defense to this charge.

If found guilty of making a false police report, a person could be sentenced to up to six months in county jail. In most cases, a criminal defense attorney can negotiate with prosecutors to have a person serve probation in lieu of any actual jail time. Whether probation would be granted would depend on a few different factors such as the motive for making the false report, the resources expended as a result of the false report, and the person’s criminal history.

Questions? … Feel Free to Contact Me.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions regarding Penal Code section 148.5 or regarding any other California felony or misdemeanor crime that you may have been charged with.

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