False Reports to Law Enforcement
837.05 False reports to law enforcement authorities.--Our Palm Beach and Broward County criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert defend all types of criminal cases throughout South Florida; in some of the cases that we handle, the crime we are defending involves the flawed or false reporting of another crime (or lack thereof). Giving false information to law enforcement is not only wrong – it is against the law.
According to subsection 837.05(1) of the Florida State Statutes, anybody who knowingly gives false information to any law enforcement officer concerning the alleged commission of any crime, commits a misdemeanor of the first degree. If you are convicted of the crime described in s. 837.05(1), you face a prison sentence not exceeding 1 year. Furthermore, Florida law allows for a fine to be imposed in addition to the prison sentence. However, someone convicted of a crime can be sentenced to pay a fine in lieu of serving prison time. So, if you’re convicted of having given false information to law enforcement regarding the alleged commission of a crime, you either face up to 1 year in prison, up to $1,000 in fines, or both, in addition to probation with various special conditions.
As our Palm Beach and Broward County criminal defense attorneys know, according to s. 837.05(2), if you knowingly give false information to a law enforcement officer concerning the alleged commission of a capital felony (a crime punishable by death), you commit a felony of the third-degree. If this is the case, and you’re convicted, you face up to 5 years in prison, up to $5,000 in fines, or both. For a third-degree felony, such as the one described in s. 837.05(2), repeat offenders are subject to harsher punishments, including prison time of up to 10 years.
Our experienced lawyers know that there is a separate subsection of the Florida State Statutes that deals with providing false information to law enforcement during an investigation. According to s. 837.055, anyone who knowingly and willfully gives false information to a law enforcement officer who is conducting a missing person investigation of a felony criminal investigation with the intent to mislead the officer or impede the investigation commits a misdemeanor of the first degree and, if convicted, faces up to 1 year in prison and/or up to $1,000 in fines.
What is crucial in understanding these statutes and the crimes they describe is the recognition that in order for an individual to have committed any of the above crimes, the individual had to have known that the information they relayed to law enforcement officers was wrong. The fact of the matter is that people make mistakes. Simply giving information to law enforcement officers that turns out to not be true is not in and of itself a crime. Witnesses and victims of crimes often make mistakes when reporting to law enforcement; they are not always intentional false reports, but rather misconceptions. Giving false information to law enforcement is only a crime if you knew that the information was false at the time at which you gave it to the officers. Our expert criminal defense attorneys understand this and we make it our job to defend our clients aggressively, articulating that the prosecution must prove that our clients knew that the information was false. The burden of proof is on the prosecution, not the defendant, who is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
If you have been arrested for or charged with giving false reports to law enforcement officers in Palm Beach, Broward or Miami-Dade County, contact our aggressive criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert. To see how we can help you, call us at 1-888-5-DEFEND (1-888-533-3363).