Filing a false police report in Pennsylvania is always a crime, but the punishment depends on individual circumstances. The court system seeks a balance between the safety of the population and the rights of the offender, within the guidelines of Pennsylvania's maximum sentencing statutes, according to the Pennsylvania General Assembly's Consolidated Statutes website.
Intentionally giving false information to a law enforcement officer with the intent to implicate another is generally a misdemeanor of the second degree, according to the consolidated statutes website. Providing fictitious reports about a crime that did not occur, or pretending to have information that one does not also constitutes false reporting and is a misdemeanor of the third degree except if one gives a fictitious report during a declared state of emergency; then it will be considered a misdemeanor in the second degree. A state of emergency is defined by Pennsylvania's Emergency Management Agency website as a natural or man-made disaster that causes damage to people or property.
Statute of Limitations
Prosecution for false reporting must be commenced within two years of the date of the alleged offense, according to the consolidated statutes.
Penalties for false reporting may include: paying a fine, paying restitution to a victim, probation, being found guilty with no further action, partial confinement or total confinement, according to the consolidated statutes. The maximum fine for misdemeanors is $5,000 for second degree and $2,500 for third degree, not including any victim restitution. The maximum lengths of imprisonment are two years for second degree and one year for third degree. If the offender is mentally ill, the court can sentence him to treatment.
When considering sentences, the court will favor probation if no serious harm was caused as a result of the false reporting, if this is the first offense, if there was strong provocation or if the circumstances of the false report are unlikely to recur, explains the consolidated statutes website. If it appears that probation is unnecessary, a charge of guilty without further penalty will be issued. Likewise, a court may find that the fine alone suffices. If the court believes that the offender who remains in the community is likely to commit another crime, if the seriousness of the offense will be lost on the offender if given a lesser sentence or if the offender needs treatment best received in confinement, then the court may imprison the offender up to the maximum allowed.
A licensed drug and alcohol counselor, Jennifer Marx has worked in the community mental health field since 2005. She has experience and skill writing for professionals and a lay audience. Her specialty topics include mental health, substance abuse, alternative and complementary medicine and spirituality. Marx holds a master's degree in mental health counseling from the University of Vermont.