Charges You May Face for Lying to the Police in New Jersey
What Happens when You Lie to the Police in NJ?
Getting arrested for a crime can be life-changing. Your world can turn upside down in a moment, and you may react impulsively to police treatment. Some people react defensively and try to justify their actions, while others outright lie or omit facts that amount to misrepresentation of the truth. Lying or making false reports to law enforcement can compound your problems. Even if you were not arrested for criminal activity, lying to the police is an offense itself. Though you may have acted without thinking of the consequences of your mistruths, you are still subject to penalties for false reports, perjury, lying to a police officer, and falsifying documents. However, retaining a criminal lawyer for advice and defense may save you from the worst effects of misleading officers, providing false information, and lying on an application or another official document. It can even prevent you from perjuring yourself on the stand in a criminal or restraining order trial, which can lead to further nightmarish outcomes.
Trust the criminal defense lawyers at the Tormey Law Firm when you need experience, skill, and outright commitment to protecting you. We assist clients with criminal matters all over New Jersey, and we’re here to offer the advice and counsel you need. Just call (201)-556-1570 or go ahead chatting with us about your criminal charges. The consultation is always provided free of charge.
Charged with Making a False Report to Law Enforcement
There are several types of misrepresentation or lying to police. Under New Jersey law, the first prohibited act is making false reports to law enforcement. One who lies to a law enforcement officer about another person’s crimes is guilty of making false reports (N.J.S.A. 2C:28-4). For instance, if you intentionally reported to the police that your neighbor was selling drugs out of their apartment, knowing it was untrue, you committed a fourth degree crime. Falsely reporting a crime that your neighbor did not commit can lead to an 18-month prison sentence if the state convicts you of making a false report to the police.
A lesser version of false reporting is a disorderly persons offense, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine with a conviction. For example, suppose the police investigation results in an officer knocking on your door. They asked if you knew anything about an incident in the apartment next to yours the night before. If you answer that you heard screaming and loud bangs on the walls, knowing you had no information about an incident next door, you violate N.J.S.A. 2C:28-4, making a fake report. In other words, you are not implicating your neighbor in a crime but responding to a request for information when you do not know about what the officers asked.
Accused of False Documents and Tampering with Public Records
N.J.S.A. 2C:28-7 makes it a crime to make, alter, conceal, present, or otherwise tamper with public records or information, so you could also rack up additional charges for lying to the police with official documents. One way to commit this type of offense is to use official documents or records for a fraudulent purpose. For instance, showing the police fake identification when they ask you for your license is an unlawful act. It is also a crime when you use false documents to hide your identity for the purposes of committing another crime. Violation of the statute can range from a disorderly persons offense to a third degree crime, depending on the situation. Keep in mind, a disorderly persons offense is handled in municipal court, while an indictable felony charge for a fourth degree or third degree crime could result in state prison time. Specifically, a fourth degree crime could land you in prison for 18 months with a $10,000.00 fine to pay. A more severe third degree crime carries 3 to 5 years’ imprisonment and up to $15,000 in fines.
Facing Perjury Charges for False Testimony
Another type of lying occurs when you commit perjury. This crime occurs when you testify under oath to a material untruth. Thus, one testifying under oath in a court proceeding that they never saw the accused in their neighborhood on a specific date, when the opposite is true, is a third degree crime. Lying under oath when others depend on the truth of the information you testify to is a breach of trust and fraud. A third degree criminal conviction could lead to up to 5 years in prison with a $15,000.00 fine to pay. The sentence range is 3 to 5 years, but the circumstances of the crime, among other facts, determine the outcome. Since you typically do not report information to the police under oath, you may not be committing perjury, but it is plain to see there are many ways to be charged with a criminal offense for lying to the police.
Defense Strategies in Lying to Officials Cases
To convince the court to convict you of a crime, the prosecutor must prove you knew you were lying when you spoke to the police about an ongoing criminal investigation, made a false report, etc. Proving someone intended to commit a criminal act or had knowledge of the falsity of their statements is often difficult. The prosecutor must overcome the possibility of a defendant’s mistaken belief, misunderstanding of facts, or inaccurate perception due to disability. You might have heard something in your neighbor’s apartment but could not discern what it was due to a medical condition that affects your hearing. Perhaps you assumed it was loud noises and fighting, not intending to lie but merely mistaken. Your charges may be dismissed if the prosecution cannot prove you knowingly gave a false statement.
A state of mind is only provable by circumstantial evidence. In addition, believing that you stated the truth is a defense an experienced criminal defense attorney may use to convince the prosecutor that their case is not winnable. You may have a good chance to get your case dismissed, have the charges reduced, or reach a better plea deal if the prosecutor cannot prove you intended some type of falsehood.
No one wants to go to prison or pay high fines for making a mistake. Even if you knew you made a false report to the police or lied under oath, your circumstances might justify a judge’s review for consideration. Fear, threats, intimidation, and blackmail are reasons people lie to police officers. Fear often motivates those detained by the police to lie, especially for a first-time offender. Not knowing what could happen, what going to jail is like, can frighten individuals to lie defensively. Though fear is not a defense to lying to the police, a judge may take into consideration all facts in sentencing, including a clean record and first-time offenses. You may even qualify for a first-time offender’s diversionary program, like Pre-Trial Intervention, and avoid a conviction on your record. Probation or the PTI Program can offer alternatives to prison time or conviction if you have an experienced criminal lawyer working to secure the best results.
Arrested for Providing False Information, Testimony, or Documentation in NJ? Contact our Attorneys Now
If you are facing charges for lying to law enforcement in New Jersey, speak to a New Jersey criminal defense attorney at The Tormey Law Firm to examine the facts of your case and get a professional opinion about what you can do. Only a sharp criminal lawyer can tell you whether you have strategic options and can work for you to get you the best possible outcome. Don’t take the risk of attempting to handle this predicament on your own. It’s simply not worth your future. Contact (201)-556-1570 for a free consultation and discuss the details of your charges today.
We defend clients throughout New Jersey, including in Essex County, Union County, Middlesex County, Hudson County, Somerset County, Bergen County, and Passaic County. Whether your loved one is currently in jail or you have an upcoming court date, speak with one of our lawyers to prepare and preserve your rights.