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Can I Be Charged with a Misdemeanor for Filing a False Police Report?

Lying to the police is not just a bad idea. It can land you in serious legal trouble. Filing a “false report to [a] peace officer” is a Class B misdemeanor offense under the Texas Penal Code. This means that if you “knowingly” make a false statement to an officer–even if you are not technically under oath–you can be prosecuted and sent to jail for up to 180 days.

“Acrimonious” Child Custody Dispute Leads to One Parent’s Misdemeanor Conviction

In a March 31 decision, Crawford v. State, the Texas 14th District Court of Appeals here in Houston actually upheld a misdemeanor conviction based on this law. The defendant, in this case, lived in Dallas, while her daughter and the child’s father lived in Fort Bend County. One day there was an altercation between the daughter and the father. The father took away the daughter’s cell phone, which he said was punishment for misbehaving at school. The father said he returned the phone a couple of weeks later.

The defendant, however, reported the father to the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s office. She alleged the father had “whipped” the daughter to “get the password for the cell phone” and proceeded to use the phone while purporting to be the daughter. This report led prosecutors to initially charge the father with theft, but the case was later dropped to a lack of evidence.

The father then turned around and reported the mother to the sheriff’s office. He said this was not the first time that the mother had filed a false police report against him. A detective with the Fort Bend sheriff later corroborated this. The detective found the defendant “repeatedly” asked for “welfare checks” on her daughter without a factual basis. The detective eventually referred the defendant to the Fort Bend District Attorney, who opted to charge the mother under the misdemeanor false report statute.

The case was tried before a judge sitting without a jury. The judge found the defendant guilty. He sentenced her to the maximum 180 days in jail, but suspended that sentence and instead ordered 18 months probation.

The mother appealed her conviction. But the 14th District said the trial judge’s ruling was supported by sufficient evidence. For one thing, the mother did not file her report about the stolen cell phone until about two months after the incident occurred. The father testified that he had already returned the phone by that time. The appeals court said the trial judge was free to believe the father’s account. The court was also allowed to credit the father’s account of his “acrimonious” relationship with the mother–i.e., the judge concluded the mother had been filing false police reports to gain “leverage in their ongoing custody dispute.”

Speak with a Houston Misdemeanor Crimes Defense Lawyer Today

It should go without saying but never file a false police report. And if you have been charged with a misdemeanor offense, get advice from a qualified criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates in Houston, Galveston or League City if you need to speak with a lawyer today. Call (281) 280-0100.