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What Are the Penalties for Lying to a Cop?

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

While it may seem like a good or clever idea in the heat of the moment, lying to a police officer can land you in some real serious trouble. While the Fifth Amendment provides individuals with the right to be free from self-incrimination, otherwise known as the right to remain silent, there is no constitutional right that provides the freedom to lie to cops. Not even the First Amendment's freedom of speech will protect a person if they are caught lying to police.

The penalties for lying to the police vary depending on the severity of the falsehood and the response/result of the falsehood. Additionally, aside from the differences in criminal law from state to state, lying to federal officers is treated much more seriously and is punished as a federal crime.

Obstruction of Justice

If there is an ongoing investigation and you are questioned, lying to officers could result in an obstruction of justice charge. These are serious charges that can potentially result in serious jail time. While state law may vary across jurisdictions, obstructing a federal investigation is a felony with a potential five year prison sentence.

Filing a False Report

Filing a false police report is a very serious offense. Not only can criminal liability result from filing a false police report, but if another person suffers damages as a result, you can be liable in a civil court for monetary damages as well. State law will vary on how filing a false report is charged and punished. Generally, it will be treated as a misdemeanor, unless there are aggravating circumstances such as an injury.

Lying to Get Out of a Traffic Ticket

Though drivers are notorious for trying to think up elaborate and believable excuses when they are pulled over for minor offenses like speeding, a false excuse could lead to a real arrest. One New Hampshire woman learned this the hard way.

After being pulled over for speeding, she told the officer that her father was dying in the hospital. The officer let her go with a warning, but later called the hospital to check on her father only to discover that the dying father had died years ago and he had been duped. He then discovered that the woman had been driving with a suspended registration. The officer then went to her home and arrested her.

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