When someone has been involved in, or bears witness to, a crime, they may struggle to accurately describe the circumstances of the event to a peace officer due to shock or fear. However, others may intentionally deceive law enforcement by embellishing the details of an actual event or making them up entirely.
A person who intentionally attempts to file a false police report is committing a crime for which they may face penalties, including jail time, fines or both.
False Statements in Texas
A false report is made by an individual to a police officer or another law enforcement employee in order to influence a criminal investigation. According to Texas Penal Code Section 37.08, an individual in the Lone Star State makes a false report if they knowingly make an untrue statement in regard to a criminal investigation to a:
- Peace officer or federal special investigator investigating a crime.
- Employee of a law enforcement agency who his authorized to investigate a crime.
- Jailer or corrections officer.
A person might make a false police report by including erroneous or misleading details when telling law enforcement about a particular event – the event may be real and the statement embellished, or it may never have happened at all.
Examples of Filing a False Report
A person can make a false report intentionally or unintentionally. For example, they may make a statement about a hit and run accident and make mistakes due to the stress of the event. By doing so, they can unwittingly relay the wrong information to law enforcement.
For example, they may have witnessed a driver run a red light and gave law enforcement the wrong information about the vehicle due to the shock of what they had seen.
Conversely, a person can intentionally misrepresent what they know about a crime. Examples of this would be to falsely accuse a former spouse of domestic violence in order to win sole custody; overstate the amount taken in a robbery; or falsify information on a police report to defraud an insurance company.
Criminal Charges for Filing a False Report
An offender who intentionally gives a false report to someone in law enforcement can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor. This offense carries penalties of a maximum possible fine of up to $2,000 and 180 days in jail, or both.
A person who files a false report about a missing person, including a missing child, faces a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine up to $500.
Pulling a Fire Alarm Under Texas State Law
Pulling a fire alarm is much like filing a false report. According to Section 42.06 of the Texas Penal Code, “A person commits an offense if he knowingly initiates, communicates, circulates, or broadcasts a report of a present, past, or future bombing, fire, offense, or other emergency that he knows is false or baseless,” and by doing this:
- Causes an official or volunteer agency that deals with emergencies to take action.
- Places an individual in fear of serious bodily injury.
- Interrupts the occupation of a room, building, place to which the public has access.
Tampering with a fire detection or an alarm system in Texas is a Class A misdemeanor. It carries penalties of up $4,000 fine, jail term of up to one year, or both.
- BHW Law: What Can Happen if I File a False Police Report in Texas?
- CaseText: Tex. Pen. Code Section 37.08 False Report to Police Officer
- Texas Pen.Code: Penal Code Title 3 Punishments Chapter 12 Punishments
- Texas A&M: Appendix II: Campus Fire Alarm Systems
- Texas Penal Code: Penal Code Chapter 42 Disorderly Conduct and Related Offenses
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.